learn / 2016

LA’s BEST & AARP Foundation Experience Corps: Brighter Futures via Reading Proficiency by 3rd Grade

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by LA's BEST

AARP Foundation Experience Corps volunteers will use evidence-based curriculum to tutor struggling readers attending LA's BEST after school program so they achieve reading proficiency by 3rd grade.


Are any other organizations collaborating on this proposal?

AARP Foundation Experience Corps & LA’s BEST

Please describe your project proposal.

Highly trained AARP Foundation Experience Corps (EC) volunteers – retired Americans ages 50+ – will tutor and mentor LA’s BEST kindergarten through 3rd grade students to cultivate reading proficiency by the end of the 3rd grade. LA’s BEST program staff – teachers, mentors and coaches to the children served – will work alongside EC volunteers and receive training and tools to expand and sustain the project, while growing personally and professionally through invaluable intergenerational exchange.

Which of the learn metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • District-wide graduation rates
  • Proficiency in English and Language Arts and Math
  • Students’ perceived sense of safety at and on the way to school
  • Youth unemployment and underemployment

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • City of Los Angeles
  • LAUSD

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to learn?

Through the proposed project and AARP Foundation Experience Corps (EC) evidence-based intervention using Reading A – Z curriculum, LA’s BEST will promote reading proficiency by the end of 3rd grade among struggling students. Further, children served will report perceptions of safety while participating in LA’s BEST, and have increased likelihood of ultimately graduating high school than their non-participant peers. The project also addresses the City’s challenge of youth underemployment, as LA’s BEST employs more than 2,000 program staff each year – primarily young adults from the same communities as those served by the organization – to teach, coach and mentor the 25,000 children served by LA’s BEST every day. Through the project, program staff will work alongside EC volunteers and receive training to replicate and expand the project.

In addition to making LA’s BEST the best place to LEARN, the proposed project will help make LA the best place to PLAY through the enrollment of 25,000 children in the LA’s BEST After School Enrichment Program each year; the best place to CONNECT by providing social and emotional support to participants and increasing rates of volunteerism; the best place to LIVE by giving children daily opportunities to take part in nutrition education programs and at least 30 minutes of physical activity during the after school hours; and, the best place to CREATE by offering high-quality employment opportunities to young adults who reside in low-income, under-served neighborhoods and meaningful volunteer opportunities to retired professionals.

On average, 90% of LA’s BEST students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Moreover, all LA’s BEST sites—Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) elementary schools—are located in high-crime, low-income communities throughout Central, East and South Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. English is a second language for 44% of LA’s BEST service demographic.

Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success; however, more than 80% of low-income children fail to meet this vital milestone. Students who work with EC tutors for a single school year experience more than 60% greater gains in critical literacy skills when compared to similar students who are not served by EC. They also score significantly higher on standardized reading tests.

Assessment results demonstrate that participation in LA’s BEST increases a student’s likelihood of graduating high school and decreases their chances of becoming involved in juvenile crime. Children report overall feelings of safety while participating in LA’s BEST, and program surveys show that children become more confident and interested in the academic content areas LA’s BEST intentionally infuses into enrichment activities. Finally, the organization is effective in helping children develop social and emotional skills through a pro-social approach to programming.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

In the pilot year of the proposed project, LA’s BEST will recruit 34 AARP Foundation Experience Corps (EC) volunteers to tutor and mentor 100 kindergarten through 3rd grade students who are in need of additional support in language arts and literacy, as identified by teachers, parents or LA’s BEST program staff. Tutoring sessions will take place three times per week, and will be offered in small group settings, including one EC volunteer and up to three LA’s BEST students.

Over a single academic year, success will be defined by the number of LA’s BEST students who are tutored by EC volunteers and make at least 60% more progress in learning two particular reading skills – sounding out new words and reading comprehension – than their non-participant peers. Another measure of success will be the percentage of students targeted by the proposed project who achieve reading proficiency by the end of the third grade.

LA’s BEST will employ more than 2,000 young adults who reside in economically distressed neighborhoods to teach, coach and mentor the 25,000 children who attend the LA’s BEST After School Enrichment Program every day. At least 85% of children served will report feelings of safety while participating in LA’s BEST, and all LA’s BEST participants will have daily opportunities to take part in at least 30 minutes of physical activity and programs that promote proper nutrition.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Education/training
  • Network/relationship support