February 27, 2007
Grant funding of $300,000 from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and The Pittsburgh Foundation is allowing Penn State Greater Allegheny (formerly McKeesport) to implement the second and third years of the Pathways to Success program in the East Allegheny and the Washington County Area School Districts.
Both foundations supported the first year of the pilot (2005-06) and each committed an additional $150,000 to Pathways for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 academic years. Dr. Anthony Mitchell of the campus? Continuing Education unit is directing the after-school programs designed to raise the achievement of underperforming and low-income students.
The participating districts were recently selected by the Pennsylvania State Board of Education Council of Basic Education to participate in a statewide movement to target achievement gaps between groups of students with relatively equal abilities. Called the ?Close the Achievement Gap? Pennsylvania Achievement Gap Effort (PAGE 1), the East Allegheny and Washington School Districts serve as models to demonstrate how achievement gaps can be effectively closed.
?In today's high-stakes testing climate, poor skills and performance in reading and lack of parent involvement, especially on the elementary level among lower-income and minority families, can create serious inequities and academic under-achievement,? said Mitchell. ?The first year of the pilot demonstrated that partnerships between foundations, universities, schools districts and families can make a positive impact on the learning and development of participants. The evaluation showed that the Pathways program helped students strengthen their reading and writing skills, and increase mathematics proficiency. The programs also laid the foundation for increasing parental involvement and partnership between the school and families.?
This year the program will continue to focus on improving participants? reading, language arts, and mathematics knowledge and skill development. The Mon Valley Education Consortium, under the leadership of Dr. Linda Croushore, will conduct the student performance evaluations in both districts, and also assess teachers? classroom teaching and tutoring strategies.
The Benedum grant is supporting the Washington Area School District program. In addition to the involvement of four classroom teachers and the principal, the program model uses mentors from Southwest Training Services, Inc., a local Career Link organization, and tutors and pre-service teachers from Washington & Jefferson College to address the academic achievement, life skills and career awareness development of students in sixth and seventh grades. Superintendent Roberta DiLorenzo has led the effort to develop partnerships and collaborations to enhance Pathway?s capacity to effectively meet the needs of middle school students.
?We at the Benedum Foundation believe that after-school programs can be very effective in supplementing what public schools have to offer. We feel this benefit is compounded when the provider is a higher education institution. Higher education brings not only educational enrichment, but the right kind of role modeling for students who may not see themselves in college,? said Dr. James Denova, Senior Program Officer.
The Pittsburgh Foundation grant targets the East Allegheny program, which involves a partnership of school administrators led by Superintendent Roger D?Emidio, four teachers and Penn State Greater Allegheny student tutors. Approximately 45 fourth, fifth, and sixth graders are registered in the program, which runs three days a week for 20 weeks during the academic year.
?The Pittsburgh Foundation?s investments in after-school programs are part of our larger strategy to improve student achievement for children in this region. We were particularly impressed with Penn State Greater Allegheny?s efforts to work closely with the teachers, administrators and parents of the East Allegheny School District and to align the after-school academic program with the District?s curriculum,? said Jeanne Pearlman, Senior Program Officer of The Pittsburgh Foundation.
?We?re encouraged by the feedback we are receiving from the schools, students and families,? observed Mitchell. ?We believe that long-term implementation of the Pathways models can significantly improve and sustain students? achievement and performance in math and reading proficiency. This is our collective goal, and with the support of our partners, I believe that we will be successful,? said Mitchell.
For more information on the Pathways to Success program model, contact Dr. Anthony Mitchell, Penn State Continuing Education, at 412-675-9044.