Reading scores improve through United Way program

According to results released in September, students in six Beaufort County schools and two Jasper County schools participating in the United Way of the Lowcountry’s Read Indeed (formerly Early Grade Reading) Program saw increases in the reading portion of their MAP and IStation test scores.

In the most recent 2014-2015 school year, 99% of the 365 students enrolled in the program in six Beaufort County Schools increased their MAP test scores in reading. In that same time frame, 96% of the 96 students in Jasper County schools increased their IStation test scores in reading. Both MAP and IStation are state-approved standardized tests taken at the beginning and end of the school year to measure progress. Including the 180 pre-K students and 34 who did not finish the school year in the district, a total of 675 students were reached through the Read Indeed Program this past year.

“We have come to expect success from this program due to the hard work and collaborative effort of our volunteer tutors and their students, members of the Beaufort County School District and members of the Jasper County School District,” said Tina Gentry, United Way of the Lowcountry President and CEO.

Now entering its fourth year, the Read Indeed Program has been successful in helping students increase their reading test scores each year. While success rates for students enrolled in the Read Indeed Program have never been lower than 95% for either school district, it has only reached the tip of the iceberg in terms of how many can be helped.

“The need is there for even more students to benefit from our program,” said Bethany Marcinkowski, Director of Education Impact for United Way of the Lowcountry. “Our statistics prove the program works, but we can only continue to reach students who need our help by adding volunteers.”

On average, over 200 volunteers spend an hour each week tutoring over 400 children, meaning most tutors have at least 2 students with whom they work. An AmeriCorps grant received in 2013 and renewed for the past two years also means an additional force of over 20 AmeriCorps members serve as tutors in the program.

Together, volunteers and members serve students at St. Helena Elementary, Shanklin Elementary, Hilton Head Creative Arts Elementary, Pritchardville Elementary, Red Cedar Elementary, Hilton Head Early Childhood Center, Hardeeville Elementary and Ridgeland Elementary. The Read Indeed program was started in 2012 by United Way of the Lowcountry as an education initiative that aligned with a United Way Worldwide emphasis on becoming a community impact organization. The specific goals of the program are to reduce by 50% the number of students dropping out of high school in Beaufort County and Jasper County, increase to 80% the number of students reading on grade level upon entering 4th grade in both counties, and enlist 600 volunteer tutors, mentors and readers for the program.

The United Way of the Lowcountry’s Read Indeed Program employs curriculum approved by the South Carolina Department of Education. To increase capacity to serve, the need for more tutors for the 2015-2016 school year is ongoing. For more information or to volunteer, contact Bethany Marcinkowski, Director of Education Impact in the United Way of the Lowcountry’s Bluffton office at 843-837-2000 or visit www.uwlowcountry.org.

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