This February, Yspaniola staff administered Reading A-Z evaluations for all students in the Learning Center. Reading A-Z assessments are an internationally-recognized, research-based system that provides our students and families with measurable results of the Center’s impact in literacy skills. These assessments measure the students' ability to interpret a text, critically analyze, and make inferences, while also measuring their vocabulary skills. Of a total of 47 students whom were tested in June 2014 and then again in February 2015, 72% showed improvement. Of those students, 41% progressed 2 or more reading levels with 24% progressing 3 or more levels. These assessments help Yspaniola educators develop curricula and programming informed by students' weaknesses and strengths.
When Martín, 12, first came to the Learning Center in the fall of 2013, he was reading at a pre-kindergarten level, even though he was in the fifth grade. Once Martín entered the Learning Center, he became a dedicated and enthusiastic learner: he has regularly attended class and he has had two years of reading growth since September 2013. In other words, Martín spent four years in public school and did not learn how to read, but after spending seven months in our Center, with one hour a day, three days a week, he became literate. This might sound surprising, but it isn’t: Martín is a smart and clever child who, with proper support and good teaching, has exceeded and will continue to exceed expectations.
In 2015, Yspaniola welcomes a new teacher, Willy José Estache. Willy is in his second year studying Education with a focus on the natural sciences at Universidad Tecnológica de Santiago (UTESA) in Mao. After graduation, he plans to work as a high school science teacher. Willy has always loved science, but it was his experience with Deportes para la Vida, where he has volunteered for the last seven years teaching youth about HIV/AIDS prevention through sports, that inspired him to become a teacher. Willy brings a wealth of knowledge, compassion, and respect to the Learning Center and we are excited for him to begin teaching classes.
The past few months have been a time of growth and expansion for Yspaniola. In August, we welcomed four new staff members to the Yspaniola team. Sabrina Grille, our new Director of Community Education Programs, who received a Master’s degree in International Educational Development from Teacher’s College at Columbia University, will teach and direct programming in the Learning Center. We also added three Princeton in Latin America fellows, all of whom are recent college graduates and will be working with us for one year. Fellows’ responsibilities will include teaching in the Learning Center, grant writing, essay writing workshops for our university scholars, and administrative support.
The new staff is a great asset for the Learning Center, which opened in late September for the 2014-2015 school year. The new director, Sabrina, brings her knowledge and expertise to curriculum development and classroom management while the fellows contribute to lesson planning and aid in resource creation. With an expanded staff, we are able to provide greater classroom support including more individualized attention for the students. In addition, we have added a new class, Class 6, which is a guided reading club for our oldest students. The instruction in Class 6 develops critical reading and analytical skills for the older, more advanced readers, previously in Class 5.
We are excited for the progress and growth in the year to come!
Yspaniola kicked off its two-week summer camp this Monday, July 14th. The summer camp caters to students aged seven to thirteen in Batey Libertad and features lessons and activities in science, art, health, and sports. This year, we have over eighty campers, thirty-two local volunteers, and eleven international volunteers! In addition to providing the campers with two weeks of fun, the camp also gives teens and young adults in the community the opportunity to develop leadership skills. Teens receive training to be activity teachers and camp counselors, and are integral to the entire planning process.
To register for camp, children in the community were required to take the Early Grade Reading Assessment, which our teachers completed with the help of staff, interns, and community assistants. These assessments are part of Yspaniola’s Learning Center’s monitoring and evaluation system, which includes in-house phonics and reading assessments, as well as the Reading A-Z system. Preliminary data indicates that students who reguarly attend the Center are advancing in their reading levels far faster than expected. Our most at-risk students, children in 5th or 6th grade reading at a Kindergarten level or below, have had almost one full year of reading growth during the last 6 months of classes. Along with tracking student advancements, this monitoring and evaluation system allows Center teachers to track individual students’ strengths and weaknesses, enabling staff to tailor lesson plans and curricula to individual needs.
In the years to come, we are looking forward to more summers of fun, learning, and assessments in Batey Libertad.
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