Rotarians Raise Literacy Scores at Brown Street Academy

In October 2012 RCM launched an ambitious reading readiness initiative at Brown Street Academy (BSA), one of RCM’s two partner schools under the wing of the Partners in Education Committee (PIE).  Rotarian Barbara Velez coordinated the effort  and reported on the project’s success at a June Rotary meeting.


Virtually all of BSA’s roughly 350 students (grades K5 through 5th) qualify for free lunch and live well below the poverty line.  BSA also confronts significant student mobility - roughly 25% of the students who start at BSA in the fall will not be attending BSA by the spring. 


Nearly one-third of the BSA students read below their grade level.  The RCM Literacy Project was designed to help bring those students up to the appropriate level.  To do this, Barbara marshaled an “army” of volunteers to tutor and provide classroom assistance on a daily basis, starting with third grade. Data suggests if a child learns to read by third grade they will be readers for the rest of their lives.  Once third grade classrooms were “staffed,” volunteers were placed in other classrooms.


The project aimed to staff classrooms with at least one volunteer during the MPS literacy instruction block running Monday through Fridays from 8am to 11am.  Volunteers read with students one-on-one or in small groups, depending upon classroom needs. 


Over the course of the 2012-13 academic year, 86 volunteers provided nearly a total 1,500 hours of literacy help. In addition to 24 Rotarians, 62 UWM Service Learners (students who are required to participate in community volunteerism as part of their academic curricula) volunteered their time.


Barbara reported that teachers were extremely grateful for the extra pair of hands (and feet) to shepherd their students through the learning process.  Students were equally grateful to know that adults who may not look, feel or live like them actually care about their academic success and well-being.    


In addition to anecdotal reports, Barbara compared Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test scores from Fall to Spring to gauge the project’s effectiveness. Comparing MAP scores from Fall and Spring showed improvement in every grade (see sidebar).



Thanks to the dedication of Rotarians and community volunteers, especially coordinator Barbara Velez, the RCM Literacy Project helped BSA students improve their reading – the best indicator of current and future student success. PIE is seeking Rotarian volunteers for the Fall 2013 start of the academic year. You do not need to make a huge time commitment – every hour helps! To get involved with the literacy program, contact coordinator Barbara Velez or call the Rotary office.