Working Together to Improve Academic Outcomes for Children

You can see the pride in Lourdes Valdivia’s eyes when she talks about her three sons, ages 3, 9, and 11. Each weekday morning, she and her sons walk through the doors of Harms Elementary in Southwest Detroit. Her oldest two children head for their classrooms, but it’s not the last they’ll see of their mom throughout their school day. That’s because Valdivia participates in a program that allows her to both learn English and how to better support her sons’ education.
 
“My time in the classroom has helped my children be better students,” Valdivia said. “We’ve also developed a stronger bond. We go to the zoo, library, soccer games, and we read and do homework together.”
 
Throughout the years, evaluations of National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) programs have proven that intergenerational family literacy is an effective way to close achievement gaps that exist between children from affluent families and children living in poverty. This is most recently demonstrated with our partner Southwest Solutions in Detroit.
 
It may sound like a no-brainer that being an engaged parent leads to better academic outcomes for children. But this Detroit program—which is based on NCFL’s family literacy model—is making a big impact.

Organizations making collective impact 
NCFL

Children enrolled in Southwest Counseling Solutions’ family literacy program engage in an anti-bullying activity with Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, and Sharon Darling, founder & president of National Center for Families Learning

NCFL’s latest research brief, The Collective Impact of Social Innovation on a Two-Generation Learning Program, explores what can happen when organizations join forces towards a common cause. This brief examines Southwest Solutions’ English Language Learners’ Program (ELLP), a family literacy program designed to enhance the learning of young elementary students.
 
With support from the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Social Innovation Fund, United Way for Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM), Detroit Public Schools, and NCFL, Southwest Solutions’ ELLP positively affects academic achievement among Hispanic/Latino students.
 
The results of the study of the 2014-15 school year are impressive. On average, students in ELLP had a 7.4 percent gain in reading level, achieved a 5.6 percent increase in reading proficiency, and attended 12 more days of school than comparison students. The study shows that participating parents helped their children have better school attendance rates, were more engaged in their children’s learning, and developed positive habits at home that supported their children’s academic attainment.
 
Valdivia sees the results every day. Her older boys have raised their grades and are doing better socially. In fact, they both went to the state math competition. “They see me as a teacher and a model. They are motivated by me being at their school and taking classes.”
 
The results of this study shine a light on the power of family literacy. When parent and child learn together, intergenerational cycles of low education and poverty can be broken.
 
Click here to read NCFL’s full Collective Impact brief.

ABOUT NATIONAL CENTER FOR FAMILIES LEARNING

The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing our nation's literacy challenges by engaging all family members in learning, with a primary focus on parents and children living in poverty. Pioneered by NCFL, the two-generation family literacy approach harnesses the power of parent-child bonds to help those who are most at risk of failing economically, emotionally, and socially reach their full potential. NCFL creates and deploys innovative two-generation programs, strategies, and online learning solutions that support learning, literacy, and family engagement in education. From the classroom to the community to the digital frontier, NCFL collaborates with educators, advocates, and policy-makers to help families construct hotspots for learning wherever they go. For more information on NCFL’s 28-year track record, visit familieslearning.org.

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