Save the Children, US Programs and Advocacy (USPA) has two overarching goals that go hand in hand to support children’s academic success. We want to ensure that children in rural communities where we work are socially, emotionally, and cognitively ready to enter Kindergarten and achieve proficiency in math and reading by the end of third grade. To achieve these goals, we have a continuum of services and programs in place to support children across the early childhood continuum from birth through elementary years.
Save the Children prioritizes our programmatic work in rural communities across America. Our mission is to support the most marginalized and underserved population of children. Therefore, our partner schools typically serve high populations of at-risk children, as indicated by various factors such as the high percentage of children receiving F/R free or reduced lunch. We seek partners that exhibit a high level of commitment and engagement from school staff and administration, as well as those partners that are committed to strong program enrollment and continued progress toward achieving programmatic goals. School-age programs were developed with a specific audience of children in mind, and have been proven to be the most effective for children that need additional supplementary literacy and math supports, are no more than 2 or 3 years below grade level in their reading and math skills and do not have severe learning disabilities. Our school-age programs are supplemental and help to meet the needs of children at risk of falling through the cracks.
USPA offers partner schools and communities a continuum of evidence-based developmental and educational supports, benefitting children from birth through grade 3. These programs and services are designed to help children be ready to enter kindergarten and be proficient in reading and math by 3rd grade. Research indicates that if children can be successful by third grade, they have a greater chance of academic success in high school and beyond. Please note that while our programs prioritize support for children from birth to third grade, often upper elementary grade children in 5th and 6th grade also participate in school-age programs. The continuum of programming includes:
- The Early Steps to School Success program that provides prenatal support to expectant mothers, a home visiting program, as well as parent-child group meetings for families with children 0-3 years old.
- The next phase of the continuum focuses on support for Pre-K children ages 3-5 and includes a Book Bag Exchange program, Play and Learn Groups, and KinderBoost: a two-week transition program.
- The final phase of the continuum addresses the educational needs of school-age children, by providing supplemental literacy and math programming, as well as after-school and summer programs. This document will focus on school-age programming only.
- You will also notice that Family and Community Engagement runs across the entire continuum, as we aim to support and engage families and community partners in each stage of the continuum.
Whether programs are implemented before, during, or after school, or even in the summer, many of the same components can be found throughout.
Children’s literacy programming is the anchor component of our programs, especially as we aim to support 3rd-grade reading proficiency for all students. We have specific literacy programming for emergent readers in Kindergarten and 1st grade, as well as for developing readers, or children in 2nd-6th grades. Supporting children’s math skills is also a key element of our work in ensuring overall academic success. Healthy Choices is another critical component, as research continues to underscore the link between children’s health and learning. And last, but certainly not least, our family and community engagement component helps to engage and support families as active partners in their children’s education.
To achieve our goal of accelerated learning, three overarching elements have been carefully considered:
- Material Selection: Developmentally appropriate, hands-on (active, playful, engaging) activities are selected at an appropriate difficulty level.
- Grouping Choices: Children participate in activities in ways that allow for maximum learning (whole group, small group, paired, individual).
- Amount of Adult Support: The ratio of children to adults is 10:1. Within this, to foster independence, children receive the least amount of support for the most success.
In addition to the elements above, all of these components are designed to accelerate children’s learning. The phrase accelerated learning is used intentionally. It is important to understand the difference between the terms remediation and acceleration. In the past, remediation was the term applied to the approach used by children who were struggling with reading. The idea was to slow down the process to give them more time and opportunity to learn the skills they were lacking. It often involved starting with the most basic skills and working through layers of skill progression. Unfortunately, this model often led to failure because slowing down the process never allowed the children to reach grade level status; they generally fell further and further behind as the years went by.
Acceleration, on the other hand, approaches the challenge from the opposite perspective. In this model, the idea is to identify specific areas that the child needs help with, often at the broader strategic level versus the specific skill level. After assessing current strengths and weaknesses, the instruction does not start at the beginning; instead, support begins where the breakdown of understanding first occurs. When applied to large groups of academically struggling children, another facet of the acceleration model is to identify which broad instructional practices provide the most benefit to the greatest number of children and which instructional practices can be best carried out by the adults who are available to work with the children in the environment in which the program is taking place. To keep children engaged, it is crucial that all activities are engaging, interesting, and motivating to the children being served. In addition, the program is carried out by well-trained paraprofessionals and volunteers who do not necessarily have, nor do they require, a background or certification in the area of reading or mathematics pedagogy. This program contains all of these elements.
SCHOOL-AGE PROGRAM SETTINGS
School-age programs are implemented in four different settings:
The majority of our school partners implement both in-school and after-school programs. However, your school may not offer programs in each of these settings.