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Our Blog: Education
April 3, 2014
Practice Makes Perfect
By Laura Koch

Last April, Vibrant Village Foundation awarded Reading Results a $75,000 grant over three years to expand their literacy intervention program to Davis Elementary School in the Reynolds School District. Recently, Vibrant Village Foundation Program Manager, Laura Koch, visited Davis Elementary with Jennifer Samuels, the Executive Director of Reading Results, to see how their program was going. 

On the car ride out to Davis Elementary School, on 195th and Davis in SE Portland, I asked Jennifer to explain why they had chosen to expand their program to Davis, in particular. 

Samuels explained that Reading Results has been working hard over the past year to prioritize three areas where: schools serve students who are not meeting reading benchmarks; a significant population of students of color exist; and there is a disparity in reading achievement scores between students of color and white students. 

“We see this clearly in the data,” explained Samuels. “80% of students at Davis are children of color. However, 61% of white students are meeting or exceeding reading benchmarks, whereas only 37% of the students of color are reaching the same levels.” 

This disparity of 24% between students of color and white students is exactly what Reading Results is aiming to address. 

When we stepped into the classroom, a small group of students were working with a reading specialist, other children were working one-on-one with parent tutors and a larger group was huddled around a table in the corner with another teacher. The shared space was tight, but clearly functioning well. 

Each student in the Reading Results program spends 30 minutes a day, three times a week with the “Reading Team”. Their goal is to improve reading skills and comprehension and to get students on track to meet third-grade reading benchmarks.

“We are shifting our curriculum to include reading fluency and comprehension, in addition to traditional phonics instruction,” noted Jennifer, as she showed me the tutor’s lesson plan for each child. 

We watched as one student read a passage out loud, painstakingly sounding out the words that stumped her. The 60-second timer, which is part of the regular tests that Reading Results uses to measure progress, seemed to pass by all too quickly. It seemed like hard work to me, but the student finished with a smile on her face and a high five for her tutor. Practice, makes perfect!

Photography: Sarah Scribner

February 21, 2014
School improvements and breakfast program in Senegal

Fiona Kiker from Andando, an Oregon-based nonprofit organization, recently returned from a visit to Keur Soce, Senegal where she was checking in on the progress of their project. 

A portion of the $75,000 grant awarded by Vibrant Village Foundation has been used to make much needed improvements to a local elementary school, which educates approximately 460 students. Since October, the electrification of the school has been completed, the classroom floors and chalkboards have been repaired, the classrooms were painted and the breakfast program was implemented. 

As Fiona reports, the learning environment is already much improved as a result of these projects. Here she shares more about the school breakfast program, which is run by volunteers in the community. 

“Each day three to five women volunteer (different ones each day) to prepare the cereal for nearly 400 children. The cereal is made from locally sourced ingredients; beans, corn, rice, millet and peanuts. Everything is dry roasted then ground together into a fine powder. First they mix the powder by hand with tepid water to form a smooth paste. Then they add the paste to hot water, stir a few minutes and it's ready. Kids from each class bring a bucket full of the hot cereal to their room where it is portioned out and served to the kids and any visitors who might be there that day!"


"We like this project because it has improved school attendance and is bringing in many new parent volunteers. In the longer term, we are confident that this simple nutritious breakfast will translate into healthier kids and better academic results.”

February 6, 2014
First & Second Graders Playing Strings

Last week, we visited Rosa Parks Elementary School to check in on the first and second graders who are learning to play violin, viola and cello through BRAVO Youth Orchestra. BRAVO, as it is affectionately known, is a new nonprofit in Portland that is transforming kids lives and their school culture through intensive, ensemble-based classical music instruction. 

It was a Friday, and the kids were treated to a special guest performance featuring Eddie Parente on violin, Andre St James on bass (who is also BRAVO's cello teaching artist) and Adlai Alexander on guitar. The students sat and listened intently but as soon as the guitarist broke into song in an indigenous language, the room exploded with excitement. Giggles rippled through the crowd. Kids covered their faces with shy delight, and others glanced around the room excitedly, with giant grins and curious eyes. 

The special afternoon jazz performance gave the BRAVO instructors an opportunity to talk to students about rhythm and improvisation, which they defined as “instant composing”. Several kids sat up in their chairs with their hands in the air, holding their imaginary instruments and pretending to improvise their own solos.




After the guest performance, the kids broke out into their sectional rehearsals. They carefully gathered up their instruments and sheet music and fanned out to the adjacent classrooms. 

The violin section was taught by Eri Noguiera, a teaching artist from Brazil. Eri had never taught beginners, and was making incredible progress with the violin section. It was hard to believe that these kids had never picked up an instrument before September, just a few months ago. They were now standing in a semi-circle reading music and running through the scales with great confidence. The students played a piece they had never seen before, a testament to Eri’s skills as a teacher and the ability and desire of these budding musicians.