Boosting the Talent Pipeline, Family-based Literacy Program Comes to Detroit

With many leaders concerned about whether the next generation of graduates will be work ready, local business and philanthropic leaders are pitching in to help as many as 2,000 Detroit pre-K through third grade children read this summer.
alphabet block spelling "READ"
Springboard Collaborative will provide literacy tools to Detroit families starting this summer. // Stock photo

With many leaders concerned about whether the next generation of graduates will be work ready, local business and philanthropic leaders are pitching in to help as many as 2,000 Detroit pre-K through third grade children read this summer.

The effort comes as parents had to educate their children from home since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The citywide partnership is led by Boston-based GreenLight Fund and brings national nonprofit Philadelphia-based Springboard Collaborative’s family-based literacy program to Detroit. GreenLight’s multi-year $600,000 social investment leads a $3 million philanthropic and public commitment.

“Springboard’s track record of literacy gains and a core focus on family engagement resonated deeply in our community-driven selection process,” says Rishi Moudgil, founding executive director of GreenLight Fund Detroit. “Their pivot to remote programming in partnership with existing Detroit schools and providers allows us to collectively build an effective model that will persist, regardless of COVID-19 conditions.”

The program’s workshops create personalized reading plans designed increase the quality and quantity of time students spend reading at home. Detroit families will also be able to participate in live weekly workshops led by teachers and paid staff either online or by phone. Springboard will continue its reach as an out-of-school provider this fall alongside partners including General Motors Co., 313Reads, The Skillman Foundation, and United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

“With many parents juggling both work and home-schooling, now is the perfect time to equip them with the right tools to for their children to achieve reading success,” says Alejandro Gibes de Gac, founder and CEO of Springboard. “Our learning accelerator allows parents to get hands-on involvement in their children’s education in Detroit. The importance of family engagement has never been more apparent, and we need to urgently utilize them as a critical resource.”

The goal-based program is designed to stop the “summer slide,” or one-three months of literacy learning loss in low-income households between academic years, producing months of reading progress over a five-week period.

“We need to activate all assets and opportunities for our children to achieve grade-level reading, especially beyond the traditional school day,” says Punita Thurman, vice president at The Skillman Foundation and a member of GreenLight Fund Detroit’s selection advisory council. “GreenLight Fund lifted families’ desire to be at the center of their children’s education, and the community collaboration and innovation that drove the process is now embedded in the selection of Springboard Collaborative.”

Parents and caregivers of the students will be matched virtually with a teacher to provide instruction, set goals, receive reading tips and coaching, access reading-level-appropriate books, track progress through an app, and earn incentives for reaching goals. The program’s intent is to reach and improve grade-level literacy for 10,000 Detroit students in four years.

“This collaborative partnership underscores Springboard’s strong reputation in helping change the course for many families through literacy,” says Terry Rhadigan, executive director of corporate giving at GM. “An investment in Detroit students is an investment in Detroit’s future, and we’re proud to join this mission.”

Local schools and existing literacy support providers implementing Springboard include Beyond Basics, Brilliant Detroit, Center for Success, Cornerstone Schools, Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences, Detroit Leadership Academy, Martin Luther King Jr. Education Center Academy, and University Prep Schools.

GreenLight Fund’s yearlong assessment process highlighted the need to support literacy growth before Michigan’s third grade reading law, which requires schools to retain students who are not reading on grade level by the end of third grade, goes into effect this year. About 15 percent of Detroit third grade students read at or above grade level, and by fifth grade, cumulative summer learning loss can leave low-income students performing two-three years behind their peers.

The fund launched its Detroit site in 2016. It has since invested in Center for Employment Opportunities, New Teacher Center, and now Springboard.

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