Literacy Lab proposes partnership with Hyattsville schools
By COLLEEN D. CURRAN — Reading success took top priority at the Hyattsville Education Advisory Committee (EAC) meeting Thursday, Feb. 28, as members heard from The Literacy Lab, an educational nonprofit which may partner with Hyattsville elementary schools to help students gain stronger reading skills.
“[The Literacy Lab] was interested in expanding to Hyattsville due to proximity and need,” said Will Staton, an EAC member and a part-time Literacy Lab employee.
EAC members began discussing a possible partnership after Staton joined the committee in September. “It was a matter of fortuitous circumstance that I was able to facilitate the connection,” he said.
Kindergarteners through third-graders who score below benchmark assessment targets or those who need more practice with their reading skills could be eligible for free tutoring, possibly as early as this fall, if funding can be secured.
The Literacy Lab, headquartered in D.C., was founded in 2009 with the goal of advancing student reading achievement through tailored practice. The organization partners with schools and provides tutors trained in an evidence-based approach of daily one-on-one, 20-minute sessions to help young readers improve. According to Literacy Lab Regional Director Sarah Rose Dorton, the nonprofit currently serves over 5,000 students.
According to Dorton, tutors work closely with an “internal coach,” a school staff member, who helps structure the type of reading practice — whether it be a phonics- and fluency-targeted approach, an assessment-based intensive approach, or another training approach that meets the student’s needs. Internal coaches also help determine if students who receive English language or special education services are also in need of The Literacy Lab’s support.
During the Feb. 28 meeting, EAC members emphasized the importance of helping all of Hyattsville’s eligible students, including those who speak English as a second language. Dorton said the program works with many English-language learners (ELLs). She noted that across the five Alexandria City public elementary schools that partner with The Literacy Lab, 68 percent of the students enrolled in the program are learning English. Reading growth for ELL students was most significant for second- and third-graders “who, despite starting with similar scores in the fall, by spring were reading on average 10-14 words faster per minute than non-ELL students in our program,” Dorton said.
One-third of The Literacy Lab’s funds come from federal grants through AmeriCorps. The cost of one tutor, after AmeriCorps support, is $16,500, which is usually covered by schools or districts and local government and foundation grants.
The Literacy Lab does fundraising and works with area jurisdictions to help them access Literacy Lab programs, said Dorton.
Daniel Broder, EAC chairman, said he thinks the partnership “could really provide an excellent service to our students.” However, he added that the biggest obstacle facing the committee would be securing funding and creating a concrete plan for implementation.
“Students deserve every minute of effective support we can provide them,” Staton said, “so ideally, Literacy Lab tutors would be in Hyattsville schools this fall.”