Fort Worth’s high-stakes, community-wide literacy campaign is fielding an eight-week prototype summer program that’s strengthening 240 elementary school students’ reading skills as they prepare to enter grades 1-4 this fall.
The program hopes to help raise literacy rates as it spins off of Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner and Mayor Betsy Price’s goal of having all 3rd graders reading at grade level by 2025, an initiative known as FWISD’s 100x25FWTX.
“Third grade” in particular “is a turning point in a child’s academic career,” Dr. Scribner said. “All statistics show it is a make-it-or-break-it time for successful students” when they transition from learning to read and instead are reading to learn.
Studies have found that 75 percent of students who struggle with reading as 3rd graders remain trapped at that level and are four times as likely to drop out of high school, weakening a city’s workforce and competitive edge.
Teamed up with the City’s Parks and Recreation Mobile REC program, the 8-week prototype program adds a literacy component to summer day camps already held at R.L. Paschal High School and nearby George C. Clarke Elementary School.
Funding was provided with $20,000 from the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce Foundation and $10,000 from the Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth.
Paschal principal Dr. Terri Mossige developed the program in concert with Dr. Olga Hickman, director of Programs and Partnerships for the Fort Worth Literacy Partnership (FWLP), launched last year and led by Price, Scribner and Matt Rose, executive chairman of BNSF Railway. The FWLP is an unprecedented coalition of business, civic, education, philanthropic, non-profit entities and volunteers focused on attaining the 100x25FWTX goal.
“To thrive, Fort Worth must have an educated workforce,” said FWLP Executive Director Kristin Sullivan. “It’s going to take all of us collectively pulling together to make that happen,” she said, and to reverse trends in which only three to four of every 10 FWISD 3rd graders are reading at grade level, according to recent State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STARR) results.
Model of Involvement
The summer prototype program is a model example of such community involvement, Mossige said. “Education is no longer an isolated event,” she noted. “Schools and community agencies must work together to attain educational goals.”
Fifteen elementary school teachers from throughout FWISD are leading the prototype’s half-day sessions, 9 a.m.-noon, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for 160 students at Paschal and 80 at Clarke. Students were selected by age, Mossige said. Most will be entering grades 1-3, but some will be entering 4th grade.
Curriculum incorporates the Girls Inc. Literacy Curriculum, activities and computerized tools such as Achieve3000’s interactive, personalized “Smarty Ants” program that continuously evaluates each student’s skill level, learning temperament and learning pace.
The program began in June and will end on August 4. A performance assessment will follow, Mossige said. “We hope to see growth in at least 25 to 30 percent of our students and no ‘summer slide’ decline in most of them.”
Plans are to polish the prototype for next summer and increase the number of student participants, she said. “My dream is that other community recreation centers will join in these efforts.”