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CAMPAIGN: ExpandED's Operation Literacy Seeks to Jumpstart K-8 Recovery

By Saskia Traill, President & CEO

The recovery effort ahead presents a tremendous opportunity to rethink citywide literacy strategies to better meet the integrated academic and social-emotional needs of young people. ExpandED is leading the way forward by building on our expertise in collaboration, research-driven program design, and summer and afterschool programming. As a partner to the Department of Education (DOE) and the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), ExpandED is eager to support programming that will re-engage students academically, socially, and emotionally.  

Operation Literacy leverages existing public funds for summer and afterschool to connect K-8 schools and their community partners with a set of research-backed tutoring and enrichment strategies, leaving flexibility for local leaders to select programs that meet their students’ needs. ExpandED’s literacy programs were developed, tested and refined through $10M in public and private investment over the past five years. Operation Literacy includes these programs as part of a comprehensive plan, along with new technologies to enrich instruction.  

Launching through Summer Rising and continuing throughout the 2021-22 school year, Operation Literacy will provide:   

  • E-reading LightSail devices for middle school students to support urgently needed book access and enriched literacy activities in the school day, afterschool, and for home-based independent reading. ExpandED is partnering with the DOE’s Middle School Quality Initiative to make the platform available in 154 middle schools. LightSail offers access to 6,000 books, built-in assessments of reading growth and students’ daily independent reading time, a place for educators and students to collaborate, and a parent portal to support family engagement. ExpandED will design strategies and provide training for afterschool educators to use the platform. An independent study by Johns Hopkins University of NYC middle schools using LightSail showed students’ literacy gains were, on average, more than twice that of expected growth. Students who read 30 minutes plus daily achieved 3.9 times typical growth.

  • Central coordination for literacy tutoring to reach elementary-age students utilizing evidence-based strategies to support reading growth, embedded in joyful summer programs. ExpandED is working with schools, community organizations and literacy tutoring groups to match offerings to children who may benefit from one-on-one literacy support embedded in summer experiences. Each selected tutoring support has a clear evidence base demonstrating reading growth for the selected age group.

  • Innovative, culturally attuned literacy enrichment for K-2 students. This program, called Ready Readers, affirms readers’ identities and exposes them to diverse cultures through books that feature a broad array of authors, characters, and issues. The model combines read-alouds with fun hands-on activities that spur the imagination, get kids moving, and create joyous relationships with reading and books. Comparisons with reading lists used in other programs show that Ready Readers’ book lists are among the most ethnically, culturally, and socially representational. Participating programs will receive training, coaching, and support. An independent evaluation by Metis Associates showed literacy growth among 95% of 1,636 participants studied, including those reading below grade level at the start of the program. Internal evaluation demonstrated increased student interest in afterschool literacy activities as a result of the program.

  • Middle school book clubs that boost reading comprehension and engagement for struggling readers. Middle School Extra Time + Tutoring = Reading Achievement, or MS ExTRA, is a small-group tutoring program designed to increase reading comprehension for struggling readers. ExpandED provides afterschool programs with funding for literacy educators, robust training, a culturally-diverse book list, and coaching support to ensure quality implementation. A three-year, randomized evaluation by Harvard University revealed higher student attendance among MsExTRA participants and annual literacy gains equivalent to an additional month of school among Black male students.  

We need your support! We are seeking to raise $1M toward a total budget of $3.5M that includes public and private funds. Every dollar helps, so please give what you can to help support joyous learning that affirms New York City children today.

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