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Community Learning Centers Presentation 5/24/2006

What leads to academic success? It happens when schools, families, and communities work together to support each child through excellent programs and unflinching commitment.

--Michele Anciaux Aoki, Ph.D.

We talk non-stop about the Achievement Gap and spend a lot of time looking at what schools do. We spend little time looking at what families do and how communities can help "pick up the slack" when families are not equipped to offer 100% support of their children's learning. Today I'd like to share a couple of programs that can go beyond the school day and really make a difference.

Kumon (TM)

The heart of the Kumon learning system is a curriculum of more than twenty clearly defined skill levels and hundreds of short assignments spanning material from preschool all the way up to college. With each assignment, your child advances in small, manageable increments. (accessed 5/22/2006)

Personal Testimonial. My daughter, who is graduating as a Valedictorian from Garfield High School this June, began Kumon Math in 4th grade. We enrolled her because we were curious about the program. What would it have to offer a young student who was good in Math, but not challenged at school? Kumon put her on a path to excellence in Math. She reached the Algebra level before the end of 5th grade. (She completed the entire Reading program during Middle School.) But, Kumon is not just for highly capable students. A few years ago, I enrolled my adult sister, Kari, who has Down Syndrome. She had never been taught Math in Special Ed in school. She really enjoyed Kumon Math, and she learned to add and subtract into double digits, as well as how to handle money. This was a huge accomplishment for her and made her very proud of herself.

What Is the Kumon Method (TM)?

The Kumon Method  is based on five key principles:

  1. Success from the Start
  2. Advancing Step-by-Step
  3. Speed + Accuracy = Mastery
  4. Practice Makes Perfect
  5. Realizing Each Child's Potential

You can incorporate these principles into any learning situation, even if you don't have access to the Kumon materials or teachers themselves.

How Could Kumon Fit into a Community Learning Center?

There are many Kumon franchises in the Seattle area that operate programs after school (typically 2:30-6:30 pm). Suppose that the CLC could create a partnership with a Kumon Center such that students in the CLC could enroll in Kumon Math, for example. How would that work?

The Kumon program begins by evaluating where students are comfortably performing currently. That's where they start. The regular routine involves going to the Kumon Center twice a week (for about 15-20 minutes) to have work reviewed and receive new packets. Students do Kumon worksheets at home every day (for about 10-20 minutes). Parents correct the sheets (using an answer book), and the students immediately correct their work so the final result is 100%.

This is the piece that is missing in some families. Perhaps the CLC could provide the "parent" support by helping students complete the worksheets, correcting them, and ensuring they get to 100%. In addition, the CLC could encourage the students to take worksheets home over the weekend to do with their families. Over time, families would gain confidence to support their children's learning in this way. Meanwhile, the students are learning the discipline of applying consistent effort, of accepting mistakes as a normal part of the learning process, and celebrating their successes -- while filling in the gaps in their Math skills.

Read Right ®

The READ RIGHT® system of instruction was developed by integrating knowledge of brain research, an interactive constructivist model of learning, and psycholinguistic reading theory.  (accessed 5/22/2006)

Personal Testimonial. Through Read Right®, Garfield High School has been able to help dozens of students who were reading significantly below grade level become excellent readers, able to read and comprehend texts for both enjoyment and academics. The program has been successful for Regular Education students, Special Ed students, and English Language Learners. Even students taking AP courses have been able to improve their reading process.

It is complicated to explain the entire Read Right® program in a few words, but the essence is that Read Right® begins by assessing where students can comfortably perform now. Then working with trained Read Right® tutors in a small group, the students develop the skills to internalize a model of "excellent reading" and learn how to self-assess their success in attaining that model.

The Read Right® program includes an entire library of leveled reading books that are interesting, engaging, and informative. (It doesn't take a lot of big words to make a book educational!) So, students reading the materials are not just practicing reading skills, but are actually accessing information that will help them develop their "core knowledge" about the world, which is necessary to develop strong predictive capacity in reading.

How Could Read Right® Fit into a Community Learning Center?

Suppose that trained Read Right® tutors were brought in to assess the reading levels of all students in the CLC? If there were students reading two or more grade levels below their current grade level in school, you could set up a regular Read Right® program for them by hiring trained Read Right® tutors to come in and work with them on a regular basis. The expense would be small compared to the value of preparing these students to be academically successful in school.

Even if you did not bring in the full Read Right® program, there are many principles about creating excellent readers that you could incorporate just in how you select books to make available to the students to read and how you model reading excellence yourselves. (Just reading aloud to students could be a benefit. Many of these students, especially English Language Learners, have not had much modeling of excellent reading to learn from.) There are some great ideas in the book by the founder of Read Right®, Dee Tadlock. (See for information about Read Right—Coaching Your Child to Excellence in Reading.)

For more information about the method, read this excellent Interview with Dee Tadlock (PDF).

Prospera: Heritage Language Literacy Club

Our model program, the Heritage Language Literacy Club, was developed for a Latino immigrant community in which many young people were rapidly losing their linguistic and cultural heritage and finding their identity in local gangs. The Heritage Language Literacy Club recruits and trains middle and high school students to serve as tutors for younger students in Spanish literacy. Tutors receive scholarship money for their service and are encouraged to develop college aspirations through various program activities. The program offered an empowering alternative as students used their linguistic and cultural knowledge to serve their community as role models for younger Latinos. Now in its eighth year in Fairfax County, Virginia, the Heritage Language Literacy Club serves over 300 Latino students per year.  (website launching soon)

For over fifteen years, Dr. Michele Anciaux Aoki has been an advocate for Parent Involvement and School-Family-Community Partnerships. From 1996-2000, she worked for the Washington State PTA as Parent Involvement Director, organizing four successful statewide parent involvement summits and a series of parent involvement seminars for parent groups, teachers, and schools. In 1999, she had the opportunity to attend training with Dr. Joyce Epstein at the National Network of Partnership Schools in Baltimore, MD, which she has shared with PTAs and later, as a consultant to the John Stanford International School and the Office of Community Learning in Seattle. Michele has also been a parent in Seattle Public Schools for 18 years. Most recently, she was a leader in expanding the PTSA-sponsored Read Right®, program at Garfield High School.

For more information about any of these programs or ideas for implementing them in the Community Learning Centers, contact

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