To the Editor:
It’s encouraging to see the Baltimore city school system take flight (“On an Upward Swing,” In Perspective, Oct. 28, 2009). Chief Executive Officer Andrés A. Alonso’s crusade to aid underserved children, including those who are from low-income homes, have special needs, or are learning English as a second language, is commendable and strongly parallels the work of our organization.
Experience Corps, which relies on trained adult volunteers from the community, is working in Baltimore elementary schools in support of Mr. Alonso’s education strategy to improve students’ reading skills. Research from Washington University in St. Louis demonstrates the impact of our efforts, and adds to other rigorous findings from Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University. Analyses show, for example, that Baltimore 3rd graders working with Experience Corps members scored significantly higher on statewide reading tests than did students at similar schools without an Experience Corps program.
In 22 cities around the country, our group serves the neediest children, those who would most likely not reach necessary academic milestones without the child-centered literacy intervention that the program provides. This is a triple win for communities, producing benefits for participating older adult members, success for students, and measurable progress for partner schools.
We are proud to be a part of the Baltimore school system and its strategy to improve chronically underperforming schools. School reform will take many shapes. One goal we all can agree on is to offer more-personalized education services to high-needs children. We believe this challenge can be addressed by incorporating teams of well-trained, experienced community members into schools.
Chief Executive Officer
A version of this article appeared in the January 06, 2010 edition of Education Week as Nonprofit Group’s Work Aids Baltimore Schools