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View Count: 132 |  Publish Date: March 18, 2013
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He gets kids to read in the summer
Michael Hinkelman, Daily News columnist Posted: Monday, March 18, 2013, 3:01 AMALEJANDRO Gac-Artigas, 24, of Center City, wants to eradicate the literacy gap among Phillys schoolchildren. Two years ago, the Harvard grad and then-first-grade teacher at Pan American Academy Charter School founded the nonprofit Springboard Collaborative to run a summer-reading program. This summer, Springboard expects to have 960 students in the program.
Q: Whats your background?
A: From 2009 to 2011, I taught 34 students literacy and social studies. I also got a masters degree at night from the School of Graduate Education at Penn and I was tapped for Whartons Venture Initiation Program.
Q: What led to Springboard?
A: My kids reading level in October was two months behind what I assumed was their starting point. A colleague told me about the "summer slide." If you were a low-income kid, every two steps forward you took during school you would take one back during the summer. But upper-income kids did not experience a similar loss.
Q: Why was that?
A: They had books and computers, but my kids learned only when they were sitting at a desk in front of me. The hope was to give low-income kids continuity. I did a pilot in summer 2011.
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A: First, we coach teachers on literacy instruction to lead K-3 students toward reading-growth goals. Second, we train parents to be their kids teachers at home. Third, we incentivize: If a child reaches goals we set, they get books and school supplies; if they exceed goals, they get a laptop.
Q: How did the pilot work out?
A: We had 42 kids in the program. The summer slide turned into a 2.8-month step forward.
Q: What happened next?
A: I started having conversations with funders to grow the program. The first to come on board was the M. Night Shyamalan Foundation, investing $20,000. Then we got more than $200,000 from foundations and businesses.
Q: Did you grow the program?
A: We had four [charter] schools, two from specific neighborhoods, two with students from all over, each with different demographic populations and performance levels. We ended up with 340 kids and replicated the 2.8-month reading gain.
Q: Whats up this summer?
A: Well work with the same schools and add four or five new ones. We hope to partner with district schools. Since last year, we added two full-time employees.
Q: Whats the fee for services?
A: The schools pay teachers. We charge $200 per student per summer to develop content, build data systems, purchase resources and manage the program. The operating budget is $800,000.
Q: Is what youre doing unique?
A: I think so. Were less costly due to the role parents play. We have a half-day instruction with teachers, and parents conduct the other half at home. This yields bigger reading gains.
On Twitter: @MHinkelman
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