Jefferson Elementary secures funds to start after-school program

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Nick Crow
Friday, May 16, 2014

JANESVILLE—An $80,000 grant will boost an after-school program to target English language learners and economically disadvantaged students at Jefferson Elementary School, school officials said.

The 21st Century Community Learning Center grant will help pay for free after-school activities, tutoring, reading support and English language learning services, Principal Kurt Krueger said.

Jefferson Elementary has a Hispanic population almost 6 percent higher than the district average and a student body that is 65.5 percent economically disadvantaged compared to the district average of 52.6 percent, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

"There had been an after-school program, but there hasn't been one in over five years," Krueger said. "It's a new, exciting program for Jefferson."

The program, which begins in the fall for the 2014-15 school year, will be similar to programs at Jackson, Lincoln, Madison and Wilson elementary schools and Edison and Franklin middle schools, Kim Ehrhardt, director of instructional services, said.

"These are federal programs that are awarded through competitive grants," Ehrhardt said. "They offer services in tutoring, reading and math. The programs are designed to support kids in those areas."

Krueger said he is pleased with the school's reading test scores but believes with this program in place the school can do more. The grant will last for the next five years. It is unclear what amount the school will receive from the grant in years two through five, Krueger said.

"We're not satisfied," Krueger said. "The purpose behind the grant is more and more quality."

This grant has helped reduce youth crime, teen pregnancy rates and other risky behavior statewide, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

According to the department's research:

-- 38,639 Wisconsin students were served by the grant during the 2011-12 school year.

-- Programs averaged 14 hours of service each week.

-- 71 percent of student participants demonstrated improvement in math and reading.

-- 64 percent of students participating completed and turned in their homework on time.

-- 58 percent of students came to school motivated to learn.

-- 54 percent improved on their classroom behavior.

"To me, I want the kids to come out of this program being able to answer 'why'," Krueger said. "Why is this important? Why am I reading this material? Why should I push forward when times are tough? That will be hard to measure, but it's really about self-advocacy--to show them they can succeed."

Krueger envisions the grant being used for support systems before school, after school, on weekends and during the summer months.

"We want to provide an after-school opportunity for students who haven't had one before," Krueger said. "This will also allow for students to have access to reading support for 12 months a year."

Jefferson will offer reading instruction throughout the summer months, Spanish classes for students before school, reading and math instruction and tutoring after school, once-a-month Saturday school and field trips to museums and other educational venues, Krueger said.

Krueger said 60 of the schools 369 students speak Spanish at home. He sees the grant as a way to help address the language barrier for students, but all students will be welcome to participate in the programs.

"We're going to have to somehow bridge that gap," Krueger said. "Our ELL population, our ethnic diversity, our socioeconomic status all exceed district averages. It's just going to be a wonderful opportunity for our students and their families."

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