Wednesday, October 27, 2010

DC Reads Program Snapshot: 4th and 5th Grade

We have four different tutoring programs within DC READS: our traditional one-to-one after-school tutoring for third graders; Saturday tutoring at libraries and community centers; morning tutoring, where we serve as de-facto teachers' assistants in classrooms for all the different elementary school grades; and then our 4th and 5th grade program, which functions as an after-school classroom run by a group of tutors and coordinators and focuses on personal development goals, writing, vocabulary, and other forms of student enrichment. Over the course of this year, we'll be posting a mixture of tutor and coordinator reflections to allow us to convey our experience as educators and mentors, while also filling our readers in on exciting developments within each of our programs.


Coordinator Reflection: Matt Buccelli

This past Thursday in our 4th and 5th grade classroom at Houston Elementary School, we had a "poetry café" to celebrate some of the work our students have been doing and give them a chance to share their creative material. For the previous two weeks, we had been teaching a unit on poetry and its different styles. After going over basic poetry terms like rhyme, couplet, alliteration, stanza, and syllable using the rap song "I Can," by Nas, we spent four classes teaching our kids to write acrostics, haiku, cinquains, and free verse poems. During each class, students had the chance to share their work quietly with a friend or individual teacher, but we intentionally put off having kids share their poems with the class and instead reminded our students during each lesson that if they behaved well and continued to worked hard, our efforts at writing would build up to a class spent sharing our poetry and eating treats. In each class building up to the poetry café, every student in class wrote at least one poem in each style; some who finished early wrote more, while others chose to draw illustrations to go along with their poems. Many of our students had the opportunity to draw illustrations but chose to write more poems instead.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rhee Out, Henderson In

By: Hannah Klusendorf
Since Adrian Fenty's defeat in the DC mayoral primary, there has been much speculation as to the fate of his right-hand woman, Michelle Rhee. After all, she did support Fenty's bid for re-election, and while campaigning for him, she hinted that a victory for Grey would mean resignation for her. It’s no secret that Gray and Rhee have had a pretty rocky relationship in the past. When asked about the possibility of keeping Rhee, Grey responded, "Well, we'll see."

Apparently, Gray and Rhee saw something. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ward 7 Promise Neighborhood Celebration

This Saturday, several DC Reads coordinators attended a neighborhood celebration to mark the awarding of a $500,000 federal grant to the Parkside-Kenilworth community in Ward 7 for the planning and implementation of a new Promise Neighborhood. The site in Ward 7 is one of 21 across the country that was recently selected by the U.S. Department of Education for its Promise Neighborhood Planning Grant program, and it includes Kenilworth Elementary School, which is one of the places where we tutor on Friday afternoons.

Location of the new Promise Neighborhood (click to enlarge)

DC's Promise Neighborhood will be modeled, in part, after the Harlem Children's Zone in New York, which spans a 100 block radius and takes a community-based approach to improving educational outcomes for kids. The idea is that by working to comprehensively build communities, we will also insure that students achieve at a higher level; both the Harlem Children's Zone and the Promise Neighborhood planned for DC seek to foster a safe, nurturing environment for kids by combining good schools, after-school programs, and other opportunities to engage youth with affordable housing and health care, job training, and other so-called "wraparound services" for adults.

The celebration on Saturday took place at the Mayfair Mansions, a sprawling complex of several apartment buildings in the Promise Neighborhood community. There was free food and a live DJ who led several games of musical chairs with the children in attendance. There were also two ponies. At one point, about two dozen people got up to do the Cha-Cha Slide, which drew Noelle's excitement, and she did an awesome job following along.

Noelle does the Cha-Cha Slide

Several community-based organizations that will be involved with the new Promise Neighborhood were also in attendance, so it was good for DC Reads to be present and explain our role in the community. Certainly our tutoring program plays a big part in offering the kind of comprehensive support for kids that the Kenilworth-Parkside neighborhood will aim to encourage with its new grant, and we did a lot of networking with the other organizations that were out on Saturday. The woman representing Head Start, which helps low-income kids go to preschool, actually turned out to be the grandmother of one of my tutees in the fourth and fifth grade program at Houston Elementary School, which is located just outside of the Promise Neighborhood area. Aside from being a nice coincidence, I think this really illustrates why DC Reads tries to establish its presence in the communities where we serve. The more we can show up and make connections with people who have a stake in our success, the more successful we will ultimately be.

For more information on the Parkside-Kenilworth Promise Neighborhood, check out their website. We'll also keep you updated on its progress as the year progresses.

Monday, October 4, 2010

This week in education: New page on the Huffington Post

The Huffington Post has just launched a new education page as part of its sprawling website. For those of you who read the Huffington Post (and those who don't!), the page follows the same basic layout as the rest of the website, with top stories and relevant education news running down the center, flanked by video links and columns by various players in the education world.

Portraying the new page as a response to the growing interest throughout the country in education issues, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington asserted in a post to the main website that America is having an "education moment." We at DC Reads certainly hope she's right: from our ongoing work in schools, we know that fixing the education system in America will not be easy. Still, tackling this eminently pressing issue with the thought, care, and critical thinking it deserves requires as much of a sense of urgency as this country can possibly muster. The more informed people are about not only achievement gaps and other struggles in urban schools, but also the stagnation and mediocrity of the US education system as a whole, the more we can encourage innovation and find diverse, well-thought out solutions that tackle the array of tangling and complex issues that have long complicated efforts to improve public schools.

To view the Huffington Post education page, click here. From now on, it will also appear as a link in our sidebar.

Happy reading!