Many students served by The School Zone have varied social, emotional and academic needs that are best supported through the combined efforts of multiple nonprofits. Samuel, currently a third grader at TSZ partner school George W. Carver Creative Arts Learning Center, is one such student. We recently had a chance to speak with Lisa Dickerson, program director at TSZ nonprofit Readers 2 Leaders, about Samuel.
Based on data Lisa received from The Budd Center, the staff knew Samuel had been served by Rainbow Days and Big Thought in the 2014-15 academic year. The data also indicated that during the 2014-15 academic year, Samuel was classified as Tier 3, a categorization that indicates a high-needs student within the Student Advocacy Management (SAM) Tier Criteria system.
In January 2014, Samuel was halfway through first grade at Carver. He always had a joke ready and rarely sat still. When he entered Readers 2 Leaders’ Team Read program, he tested at a pre-kindergarten reading level, which means he did not know all of his letter sounds, let alone how to put them together to make words. Lisa says, “The first time we read together one-on-one, it took half an hour to get through one page of a book, and I could tell he was frustrated and embarrassed that he didn’t know the words. It took that whole first semester for him to learn his letters and to begin to sound out small words like ‘it’, ‘and’ or ‘go’.”
The next year Samuel moved on to second grade, though he was only reading at a beginning kindergarten level. He had grown into a class clown and there was never a dull moment when he was in the classroom. He was not very interested in reading, but he showed up in class every day. It was during this year that reading began to click for him. In seven months, Samuel made 15 months of reading growth progress. Despite the tremendous progress he had made, he was not ready to move on to third grade and was held back to remain in second grade for another year.
At the beginning of Samuel’s second year in second grade, Lisa sat down and talked with him about the reading program. She said, “I explained to him that this year I could only take five second graders into the program, and I believed that if he put in the work he could reach his grade-level goal by the end of the year. He agreed and we shook on it.”
Samuel was still a playful kid, but he also started to take an interest in his education. He asked for more difficult books, participated in class discussions, and practiced his fluency passages over and over again until he could read them perfectly. One day during spelling practice he said, “Ms. Carpenter, do you know why I know how to spell so good? Because you taught me how last year and now I can spell anything.” Samuel was committed to becoming a great reader, and in May of 2016 all his hard work paid off when he passed the test for his grade-level reading goal.
The steadfast efforts of Lisa and the Readers 2 Leaders staff have made a significant impact on Samuel’s personal and educational growth. The Budd Center believes the combined support of Rainbow Days, Big Thought and Readers 2 Leaders contributed to the “win” of Samuel’s upward transition from Tier 3 to Tier 2 and his increasing interest in reading and education.