2014-02-20

By Brendan Smith

My name is Brendan Smith and I proudly serve as a City Year AmeriCorps Member at DC Scholars Stanton Elementary School in Southeast DC. On Monday, February 10, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Wendy Spencer, Mayor Vincent Gray and DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson visited DC Scholars Stanton Elementary School to highlight the School Turnaround AmeriCorps program.  School Turnaround AmeriCorps is a collaboration between the Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service that utilizes national service to help turn around persistently underachieving schools.  The visit garnered some great media attention in the Washington Post and on NBC4!

School Turnaround AmeriCorps provides grant funding to support City Year’s work at Stanton. We’re honored to be part of Stanton’s turnaround story, where since 2011 literacy proficiency rates have doubled and math proficiency rates have quadrupled, from 10 to 42 percent. Here’s how I personally contribute to the turnaround effort:

It’s Monday morning and I am in Amanda Jonas’s fifth grade math classroom. Most students are focused on the fraction diagram Ms. Jonas has drawn on the SMART Board. I circle the room, greeting a few students and checking in with others to make sure that they are following along with Ms. Jonas’s lesson.

“Mr. Brendan, come here,” I hear. As I scan the room, the calling student catches my eye and motions for me to come over. “Are we going to have small groups today?” she asks.

The student is one of the 12 I regularly work with in small-group math interventions. We spend roughly 90 minutes together each week discussing challenging concepts, practicing computations and addressing gaps in her understanding that may be preventing her from learning new material. Between her first and second progress monitoring standardized assessment, her score grew by more than 20%. On her most recent assessment, she scored higher than the average student in the District!

This type of growth is typical of students that City Year AmeriCorps members work with in small groups.  And it shows the power of collaboration.  After all, our impact is only the result of a great partnership that City Year has with the teachers and administrators at Stanton.

For example, the leadership at Stanton treats City Year as peers and educators. Before the start of the school year, City Year AmeriCorps members were invited to participate in Stanton’s professional development sessions alongside teachers and administration. We worked with the teachers to use data to identify students who could benefit from targeted, consistent interventions with AmeriCorps members. At the time of writing this post, City Year AmeriCorps members serving at Stanton have logged over 1,600 hours in math and reading small-group interventions.

The School Turnaround AmeriCorps grant at Stanton provides funding for 18 City Year AmeriCorps members to serve full-time in the school, more than twice that of the average team. The Stanton and City Year partnership has paid off. In the six years of our partnership, Stanton has transformed from one of the lowest-performing schools in the District to a school that is making tremendous gains. I am so excited to see what the future holds!

BrendanSmithBrendan Smith, author, is a corps member serving at DC Scholars Stanton Elementary School.

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