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ALLL K-5 Final Report

Learning through an Expanded Arts Program, Inc. (LEAP) is a nonprofit organization committed to improving the quality of public education through its unique, arts-based approach to teaching the academic curriculum. LEAP empowers students to reach their full potential. Active Learning Leads to Literacy (ALLL) is LEAP’s signature literacy program that uses all of the arts disciplines to teach writing and reading comprehension and enables students in grades K-5 who are considered least likely to succeed to excel. Unlike traditional literacy programs, ALLL tailors our hands-on methods to the specific learning styles of students from economically disadvantaged communities. ALLL uses drama, visual arts, music, creative movement, cooking and games to teach young learners decoding, reading comprehension, writing, grammar, vocabulary, enhanced language fluency, and problem solving skills so that students develop a foundation for strong literacy throughout their academic career.
 
Now in its thirteenth year, ALLL was able to work in 152 classes in the four boroughs of New York City. The locations of the classes are shown in the table below:
  

Fundamental needs and how we addressed them:

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Students: The Title-I   students that we serve test far below expected standards and need special help to succeed.
 
LEAP’s intensively-trained teaching artists worked closely with classroom teachers and school literacy coaches to design arts-based, hands-on activities that built strong literacy skills, ensured future academic success, and enjoyment of learning. By combining tactile, auditory, visual, and other interactive methods, students successfully mastered basic literacy skills as well as higher-level thinking skills as defined in the new Common Core Curriculum.  
 
Some of the in-class activities this year included:
 
  • Vocabulary development, sight vocabulary, reading comprehension (sequencing, main idea, character analysis), and writing (sentences, paragraphs, short stories, nonfiction): Students in kindergarten to second grade created their own Eric Carle inspired story, from developing characters and storyline to illustrating the book as a class. They began the lesson by reading several books by Eric Carle and discussing character development, use of literary devices, as well as methods of illustration. After fully understanding the roles of both the author and illustrator, the class worked together for several days to create the book. Kindergarten students books were usually one or two sentences per page while the second graders were able to write one per page.
 
 
  • Vocabulary development (adjectives), writing (words): A kindergarten class sang songs about birds by combining their knowledge of birds and adjectives. The teaching artist handed out index cards with either names of birds or adjectives written on them. The students with the name of the bird followed by those with the adjectives read their cards out loud. As a class, the students matched each bird name with the appropriate adjective. (e.g. little sparrow, red robin, laughing parrot) Once they compiled a list, they sang about the different birds using the Twinkle Twinkle Little Star melody. The verses continued by having one bird pecked by another, and ended with the bird getting lost in the rain. Through this process, students were able to storyboard and sequence the birds.
 
  •  Listening comprehension, vocabulary (action verbs and adverbs), reading comprehension, and writing: A fifth grade class combined the three aspects of musical theatre (acting, singing, and dancing) as they wrote their own musicals based on ‘The Old Man and the Ungrateful People’, a trickster tale from South Africa. Over several lessons, students created a storyboard of the plot as well as character sheets for each important character, wrote the dialogue and songs, choreographed the movements to go with the songs, and made the props for a final performance. Through this process, students increased their reading and writing ability and learned to work with their peers.
      
In addition to LEAP’s proven-effective lively in-class activities, this year, ALLL K-2 students visited the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and saw for themselves the dinosaur fossils exhibition. This trip deepened their understanding of paleontology. Students were able to identify carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs, assemble models of dinosaur skeletons, participate in a dinosaur dig, apply their dinosaur knowledge to the fossils, and answer paleontological questions – i.e. “What kind of dinosaur is in this egg?” or “How did this dinosaur die?” In the spring, students studied birds, which evolved from the dinosaurs, went bird walking in parks, from Central Park to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. This enabled them to see birds that they studied in class and make crucial connections between the habitat and the specific physical features of the bird.
 
  
 
Teachers: The classroom teachers in Title I schools often lack teaching experience and many are unprepared to help Title I students reach the newly enhanced Common Core Curriculum (CCC) Standards.
 
As part of the program, LEAP trained 173 classroom teachers in ALLL’s proven-effective teaching strategies so that they can now easily replicate the strategies in future years. Thus, ALLL is embedded in classrooms and schools for years to come. Due to the heightened standards of the CCC mandated for all students, it is especially important to ensure that the teachers were adequately equipped to effectively help students reach their full potential. To do this, LEAP used four approaches: in-class training, monthly NYU teacher PD workshops, access to the ALLL database, and a five day summer seminar.
 
  • In-Class Training: The ­­­­173 classroom teachers worked closely with their LEAP teaching artists to develop lesson plans that met the specific needs of their students. During the 40 in-class sessions, classroom teachers were able to observe the various ALLL techniques the teaching artists modeled. Once the classroom teachers became familiar with the strategies, they began to team-teach with the LEAP teaching artists before finally conducting ALLL activities on their own. In this process, classroom teachers were able to see the effective methods in practice and be able utilize for themselves.
 
  • NYU Teacher Training: In addition to the in-class trainings, 122   classroom teachers attended day-long workshops held at New York University. There were a total of seven workshops, repeated twice a month for a total of 14 sessions. Half of the workshops focused on grade appropriate teaching strategies; games for kindergarteners that built the students’ knowledge of nouns and verbs or activities for 5th graders which helped them understand how to look for common themes and link them to a specific text. The other workshop sessions, led by experienced teaching artists, concentrated on different arts-based activities that were specifically designed to help students master basic literacy skills and excel in the new higher CCC standards.
 
  • Materials: Every participating teacher received an ALLL literacy teaching kit which included a teacher’s guide filled with effective instruction strategies, a CD-ROM containing over 500 ALLL lesson plans, all supplemental materials needed to strengthen lessons (i.e. game boards, essay writing forms materials, exciting visual prompts to inspire writing), and a training video showcasing the most successful practices.
 
  • Summer Seminar: This 5-day intensive seminar provides supplementary training for participating teachers. On the first day, teachers and literacy coaches will spend the first day learning how to integrate literacy into the CCC using a specific theme that is directly aligned to the CCC. The next three and a half days will be spent visiting particular sites all over the city correlated to the theme chosen. Teachers will re-meet at NYU on the last half day for a final sharing. Last summer, the theme was “community” from the social studies curriculum. This year from July 13th to 17th, the theme will be “Looking for evidence of ­­­­New York City’s past”, which links to every CCC.
 
Many teachers prior to participating in the ALLL program were skeptical of the power of hands-on, arts-based teaching. However, it was evident that the attitude of the teachers towards arts integration as a valuable instrument for teaching literacy skills changed over the course of the program as they saw how effective it was and how it resonated with their students.
 
 
 
Parents: Many of our parents do not speak English and lack the education needed to help their children academically.
 
LEAP reached out to the parents of participating K-2 students by working with each school’s parent coordinators. Parent involvement is vital for student’s success. As such, ALLL’s parent workshops provide parents from underserved communities the vast variety of ways they could build their own literacy skills while shopping or reading maps. Each parent was provided with activity booklets (in different languages) which they can employ to help their children academically outside of school.
 
Population
In order to determine the effectiveness of ALLL, we had a group of control classes and a group of experimental-intervention (E-I) classes. The schools which chose to participate in the program decided which classes were E-I versus control groups based on availability schedules rather than by selection of students. This ensured a random selection.
 
Students
Traditionally, LEAP has worked primarily with low-income, minority students. This year proved to be no different. The table below shows the specific demographics of the participating students

  
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Students
Traditionally, LEAP has worked primarily with low-income, minority students. This year proved to be no different. The table below shows the specific demographics of the participating students:
  
  
Evaluation:
Since the inception of ALLL, New York University Steinhardt School of Education has been conducting an ongoing longitudinal evaluation of ALLL. It is evident that ALLL not only increases student literacy performance, but also helps teachers develop effective strategies to better reach all students.
 
ALLL’s key goal is to enable students who are considered least likely to succeed to not only catch up to, but surpass their peers from more advantaged communities. In previous years, ALLL students have excelled in comparison to their peers, surpassing city and state average. We expect that when this year’s evaluation is complete, we will find that 2014-2015 will be no different. We are currently still in the process of analyzing data from participating schools. The data below shows the preliminary results. 
 
The graph below shows the percentage of students below, at, and above grade level before and after the ALLL program:
  
  
Program Development
Several challenges have arisen over the past few years of the program that have presented opportunities for LEAP to adapt and improve the ALLL program:
 
The city and state have raised the level of expectancy for all students. The centralization of education means that schools are expected to use one of two reading programs while meeting all of the new and rigorous literacy expectations. In 2012, kindergarten students were expected to read at level B and write a complete sentence. The 2013 heightened standards meant that students are now expected to read at level D by June and write a full paragraph about a topic. First graders use to be expected to read at level G by June, but now are expected to read at level K and write 3-5 paragraphs on one topic. This has led to a bigger academic gap between the high-performing and low-performing schools. Therefore, LEAP has put an even greater effort in order to provide the students who start out behind or are falling behind with the strong literacy and problem-solving skills necessary to meet the higher expectations. Last year, only 4% of Title I students in the New York State ELA test, tested on or above grade level. In contrast, 23% of LEAP Title I students tested on or above grade level by the end of the program (prior to the program, only 3.6% of our students tested on or above grade level.)
 
Finance
Please see attached budget for a detailed breakdown of income and expenses. We are very grateful to our 2014-2015 ALLL funders. Your generosity provided so many students from disadvantaged communities to flourish academically and become prepared for future success. Your support has made a huge difference in the lives of these young learners. Thank you very much to:
 
US Department of Education
MUFJ Foundation
Colgate-Palmolive Company
Laura J. Niles
New York Community Trust
New York Yankees Foundation
And Individuals   
[1] Title I Schools are schools that receive funds from the USDOE to bridge the gap between low-income students and other students. Title I funds assist schools to meet the educational needs of students living near or at poverty levels. Low-income students are determined by the number of students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program. For an entire school to qualify for Title I funds, at least 40% of students must enroll in the free and reduced lunch program.  Note: In all ALLL schools, at least 85% are Title I students.
[2] Some schools were only able to send one teacher. That teacher then replicated PD workshops for other participating teachers in the school.
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