Baylor’s third annual Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools program has launched at Indian Spring Middle School and J.H. Hines Elementary School, both in-district charters through the Transformation Waco initiative of Waco ISD. The program will serve more than 170 students, providing quality literacy enrichment from June 12 – July 26. The program is free to students and includes field trips, special guests and meals.
Freedom Schools literacy program exposes students to culturally relevant books for maximum student engagement and the prevention of summer learning loss. Freedom Schools also offers curriculum in social action, character building and STEAM activities. Freedom Schools students, called “scholars,” will participate in community service and create a project for the National Day of Social Action focusing on gun violence and awareness.
Lakia M. Scott, Ph.D., assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the Baylor School of Education and executive director of Baylor’s Freedom School, said the program has successfully prevented summer learning loss in participants. For 2018 participants, who were middle school students only, 100 percent either improved (80 percent) or maintained (20 percent) in independent in-text word recognition skills. And 94 percent of scholars increased or maintained comprehension, based on independent questioning, with 77 percent increasing and 17 percent maintaining.
Scott said she believes that student engagement is the key to the program’s success. “There are bold assertions in existent literature about why students are disengaged in traditional classroom settings — culturally deficit instructional practices, irrelevant curriculum, and negative teacher dispositions or teacher bias are just a few considerations,” she said. Freedom Schools aims to address all of these, she said.
One of the most popular aspects of Freedom Schools is the morning experience known as Harambee, Scott said.
“Harambee, which means ‘let’s pull together’ in Swahili, allows students to sing, dance and motivate themselves and each other every day,” Scott said. “The collective gathering promotes the understanding of our purpose and goals for each day. During Harambee, students and leaders sing motivational songs, give announcements, and do cheers before the students enter their classrooms.”
Each day, a “guest reader” visits Freedom Schools and reads a short children’s book to the group and fields a few questions from the scholars.
Baylor Freedom Schools is a partnership between Baylor School of Education, Waco ISD and Transformation Waco, Prosper Waco, and the City of Waco.
The CDF Freedom School model has deep roots in civic engagement that go back to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Today the program serves to connect students and their families to their local communities, encourage family and community involvement, empower children through literacy and reduce summer learning loss.
In addition to offering a service for children in the community, the program provides an opportunity for Baylor students who are pre-service teachers enrolled in Baylor School of Education to work as Servant Leader Interns (SLIs) and serve children from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
Find more information on Baylor Freedom Schools at baylor.edu/SOE/FreedomSchools.
ABOUT BAYLOR SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
For more than 100 years Baylor educators have carried the mission and practices of the School of Education to classrooms and beyond as teachers, superintendents, psychologists, health education professionals, academics/scholars and more. With more than 50 full-time faculty members, the school’s growing research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation, while graduate programs culminating in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. prepare outstanding leaders, teachers and clinicians through an intentional blend of theory and practice.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.