Big News At Jubilee Park: More Than Twice As Many Kids Are Reading At Grade Level | KERA News

Big News At Jubilee Park: More Than Twice As Many Kids Are Reading At Grade Level

Jun 21, 2016

Dallas’ Jubilee Park Community Center, which was featured in last year’s KERA series ‘Inside A Neighborhood,’ runs an after school and summer program for local kids.

The students who attend have made major strides in reading over the past year.

Jatari Malcolm, 7, is a regular at the Jubilee Park Community Center both after school and during the summer. Reading is one of the core focus areas here and a computer based literacy program called Istation is a big part of that.

“My teacher kept bugging me about Istation and I won the iPad because I did a lot of Istation," he says.

From The Danger Zone, To Right On Target

Jatari’s being modest. He actually won an iPad because he was the most improved first grade boy in the whole program. Ten iPads were given out to kids who significantly jumped up their reading scores—one each for the top boy and girl in grades 1 through 5.

In 12 months, Jatari went from being two years behind to reading on grade level.

Marjorie Murat is the Director of Program Services at Jubilee Park. She says 98 percent of the kids in the afterschool and summer program are considered low income.

“There is linkage between poverty and not being on grade level," she says. "You may have parents in the home that perhaps had to quite school at a primary level to assist with the family. Bilingual families where some parents only speak Spanish so the assistance they can provide to their child is very limited.”

Changing The Odds

Which is why Jubilee staffers set out to make a difference. Teachers stick to Istation as well as a book-based curriculum and enforce a strict attendance policy. Kids have to show up at least 75 percent of the time to keep their spot.

“We’re really trying to move the needle here and get these kiddos reading on grade level so that they can pass their state test, promote to the next grade level, reading is the foundation for everything we do, in life," says Murat.

In April of 2015, about 17 percent of Jubilee Park kids were reading on grade level. One year later it was 42 percent.

Staffers say that kind of increase is heartening—and not just for academic reasons. When kids can’t keep up in class, they tend to misbehave.

A Brighter School Year

Marjorie Murat doesn’t want a single one Jubilee Park kids in that position when school starts in August. Their summer  includes plenty of reading activities as well as math and science to keep the kids from losing the progress they’ve already made, and give them a little boost for the upcoming year.

Don't worry: There’s also plenty of time for snacks, arts and crafts, and fun on the playground too.