United Way Neighborhood Initiative Positively Impacting Literacy Assessment Scores at Danbury’s Park Avenue School

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Kindergarten reading scores show substantial increases of more than 10%, and for some, upwards of 30%

DANBURY, CT -- Danbury’s Park Avenue School’s early reading scores show an increase of more than 10%, and for students involved in interventions by United Way of Western Connecticut (UWWC) that increase was more than 30%.

For the past four years, UWWC has spearheaded an effort to prepare children living in Danbury’s Park Avenue neighborhood for early school success. In the spring of 2016, 42% of Park Avenue Kindergarteners met the school district benchmark on the Early Literacy STAR assessment. By the spring of 2017, that number was up to 48%. For students whose families were involved in UWWC’s early learning programs, that number was 57%.

“We’re excited that we are able to measure some real results this year,” said Kimberly Morgan, CEO of UWWC. “Obviously, Park Avenue School’s wonderful teaching staff deserve a lot of credit, but we think our early literacy initiatives contributed significantly to student improvement as well.”

UWWC’s work at Park Avenue has been supported by the Pitney Bowes Foundation, which provides $7,500 to fund playgroups at Park Avenue for parents and children who are unable to attend a formal preschool. The playgroups help children with social skills, teach parents how to promote learning in the home, and screen children for developmental delays.

The Park Avenue Initiative has also been significantly supported by The Grossman Family Foundation, which helps to fund a bilingual school liaison, a community garden, and a Walking School Bus initiative. It also funds a summer skills program for children who have been identified as needing substantial help with skills before they enter kindergarten, as well as a nationally recognized program for Latino parents called Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors.

Park Avenue Elementary School is a Title I School, which means a high percentage of its children come from low-income families. More than 70% of the students receive free or reduced-price lunch, and almost 50% are English Language Learners. Because many students at Park Avenue come from economically challenged families and immigrant families, they are more likely to be affected by the achievement gap: the difference in academic performance between low-income and minority children and their more affluent peers.

Early intervention and parent involvement are strategies that help to reduce the achievement gap, and are the cornerstones of the Park Avenue Initiative. By involving parents in their children’s early education and giving children under age 5 basic skills that prepare them for kindergarten, these strategies lay the foundation for school success in the elementary grades and beyond.

“By focusing on and supporting both the parents and the children, and by providing a lot of different ways for families to get involved, our hope is that parents feel comfortable coming to Park Avenue School before their children even enter kindergarten.” Morgan said. “By bringing together funders, parents, children, and the staff, we have made this a true community effort to help young children.”

About United Way of Western Connecticut
United Way of Western Connecticut (UWWC) improves the lives of hard-working, struggling households by mobilizing the resources of local communities to create lasting change. We help residents across Northern Fairfield County, Southern Litchfield County and the City of Stamford by focusing on the vital building blocks for a good life: Education, Financial Stability and Health. We are committed to ensuring that every child enters school ready to learn, every family is financially stable, and every community we serve is healthy and strong. We are particularly focused on a population that United Way identifies as ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) in our communities. A United Way report published in October 2016 revealed that in Connecticut, more than 1 in 4 households has earnings above the Federal Poverty Level, but below a basic cost-of-living threshold. Combined with those who are struggling below poverty level, 38% of all households in the state are experiencing financial hardship. By leveraging the collective power of the community, we are focused on creating an environment where individuals and families are self-sufficient and can achieve financial independence.



Sofia Dupi
Associate Director, Marketing & Communications
United Way of Western Connecticut

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