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/ DEVELOPMENTS IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Reading Successes Triple After Tutoring at 9 Schools

September 28, 2000|HILARY E. MacGREGOR

SAN FERNANDO VALLEY — After a year of testing and tutoring at nine of the northeast San Fernando Valley's poorest elementary schools, the percentage of students reading at or above grade level tripled to 33% last year, officials of a public-private endeavor to send more children to college announced Wednesday.

The percentage of sixth-graders reading at or above grade level quadrupled at four middle schools in the same area--although it still remains at a dismally low 16%.

Those announcements were the highlights of a one-year progress report by the innovative Project GRAD (Graduation Really Achieves Dreams) at Skirball Center. It started last year with 15 Los Angeles Unified School District schools and more than 25,000 students in the largely Latino northeast Valley.

Despite the improvements, Cheryl Mabey, executive director of Project GRAD Los Angeles, said, "It is very sobering when you look at the low level of academic achievement," she said.

Officials emphasized that it is still far too early to predict long-term effects of the program--which aims to boost reading and math scores, reduce dropout rates and drastically increase the number of students going to college. But they said they hoped that aspects of the program will spread.

Of the 25,000 students in the 15 Project GRAD schools, all of which feed into San Fernando High School, more than 93.2% are Latino and 3.8% are African American. More than 60% of the students speak limited English and more than 90.6% participate in free or reduced lunch programs.

More than 42% of the teachers in participating schools have emergency credentials.

The Los Angeles program will cost $40 million for four years and is funded by $14.5 million in federal money, as well as contributions from the school district, Ford Foundation, private groups and businesses. It cost $6.6 million in its first year.

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