Hopping the achievement gap

Staff from the Ozarks Regional YMCA traveled to Washington, D.C. for the first annual YUSA Achievement Gap Convening. Y staff attended workshops, learned from collective impact model experts, and discussed ways of implementing local evidence based programing. The purpose of the event was to educate and align Y affiliates around a common mission to move the needle on academic achievement. Working with pilot sites, YUSA has developed programming that has shown to reduce summer reading loss, improve social-emotional skills, improve school conduct, and increase self-sufficiency. By empowering Y’s across the country to use these best practices, YUSA aims to make a measurable impact in reducing the Achievement Gap for the 9 million youth that are served by Y’s nationally.

In addition to being a part of a national network, ORYMCA strives to make a different in our local community. The Achievement Gap, a local red flag issue since 2011, is the term used to describe the difference in academic performance between different population groups. In Springfield, low-income youth are more likely to struggle with reading, science, and math which contributes to lower graduation rates and continued cycles of generational poverty. By reducing the Achievement Gap, the ORYMCA aims to empower local youth to successfully transition into adulthood, leading to a stronger local workforce, and improvements in quality of life for the community.

The first step in moving towards YUSA’s evidence based model will involve piloting an after school literacy program with funding from Community Foundation of the Ozarks. The program will be in partnership with Ozarks Literacy Council at two SPS elementary school sites. Bowerman and Boyd were chosen for the pilot, because they are located in Zone 1, the area targeted by the local Impacting Poverty Commission, the City of Springfield, and CFO’s Northwest Initiative. Data from Springfield Public School’s 2013-2014 annual report shows the mobility rates for Bowerman and Boyd are 30% to 40% higher than the district average. The percentage of students receiving proficient and advanced standing in third grade English Language Arts were 10.5% and 21.4% compared to 36.4% in the district, and 42.3% statewide. At the end of the pilot, partners will be able to see if the program impacted youth enrolled. If successful, the ORYMCA plans to scale the program and make population level impact in the community.

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