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‘Better And Better’

LEAP Program Leaves Children With Stronger Reading Skills

Love Elementary School students part of the Summer LEAP, or Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress, pictured in August during a trip to Midway State Park. The program is boasting a 98% success rate. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

Almost 400 Jamestown children are beginning the 2019-20 school year with stronger reading skills after participating in the Jamestown Public Schools’ LEAP program this summer.

Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education members heard a report during Tuesday’s meeting on the inaugural year of the LEAP program. After the presentation, Bret Apthorpe, district superintendent, shared an email he received before the meeting from one of the district’s teachers.

“I get goosebumps,” Apthorpe said. “We have almost 400 kids show success both in academics but in social emotional experiences. I have goosebumps because right before I came here, I got an email from a teacher at Lincoln, and the title was, ‘It worked.’ And she shared with me her assessments of reading of her kids. Kids who went to LEAP and the kids who didn’t go to LEAP, where the kids were last year in June and where the kids are today. And it’s so cool that we’ve got almost 400 kids whose future is just a little bit better than it was in June. I’m just so grateful and I know the kids are grateful and if we keep doing this it’s only going to get better and better for those kids.”

The eight-week program featured six weeks of literacy intervention in all five of the district’s elementary schools. Michelle McDowell, chief academic officer, said 396 students participated, with 30 district teachers staffing the program. In addition to reading intervention, the program had enrichment activities, field trips, breakfast and lunch as well as transportation for students.

“What these two are presenting is years of work representing an incredible amount of collaboration between the who’s who of Jamestown that support kids, teachers who are passionate about kids, leaders who are passionate about kids,” said Bret Apthorpe, district superintendent. “Everybody’s asking how did Jamestown do this? We did it because we had the collaboration from community leaders.”

Danielle Russell, Jamestown Public Schools literacy coordinator, presents results of the inaugural LEAP program held this summer. Russell and Michelle McDowell, Jamestown Public Schools chief academic officer, discussed the program with Jamestown Public Schools board members on Tuesday. P-J photo by John Whittaker

Through six weeks of targeted literacy intervention, children read an average of 845 minutes and averaged 28 new sight words gained. Of the 396 students who participated, 98% did not see a loss of reading skill over the summer months while 81% of parents surveyed felt their child’s reading improved over the summer.

“We were able to prevent summer slide in 98 percent of our students,” said Danielle Russell, district literacy coordinator. “That was really, really exciting to us in that the majority of our students are entering better prepared for this year. They haven’t lost any literacy skills, they have increased their skills and are ready to start the year even better.”

The program cost $476,508. Twenty-two percent of that went to teachers while 58% went to the Jamestown Area YMCA, the Jamestown YWCA and the Winifred Crawford Dibert Boys and Girls Club, agencies that partnered with the school district for the LEAP program. Field trips and enrichment took 8% of the budget, followed by busing (5%), field trip busing (4%) and supplies and curriculum (3%). There was no local taxpayer dollars used to pay for the program, with 51% coming from federal Title 1 funding, 16% from a federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant, 24% from the Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation, the Lenna Foundation, the Cummins Foundation, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, the Jamestown Promise Fund and the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County. The final 9% came from state aid.

“I can’t talk enough about the partnerships that went into this program,” McDowell said. “Whether they were the funders or three partner agencies, we couldn’t have done this without them. Again, 98% of our students were able to stop summer slide, and it was all because of the collaborative effort between the school district and our community. What a great thing we did for our kids.”

Michelle McDowell, Jamestown Public Schools chief academic officer presents results of the inangural LEAP program held this summer. McDowell and Danielle Russell, Jamestown Public Schools literacy coordinator, discussed the program with Jamestown Public Schools board members on Tuesday. P-J photo by John Whittaker

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