What's next for ESLC?

Leveraging the best of ESLC today, while planning for tomorrow

East Side Learning Center (ESLC) has gone through significant change over the past 18 months. That change includes a new Executive Director,  the change in United Way funding, and the shifting needs of our students and partner schools. Through all of that change, I am committed to ensuring that ESLC provides services proven to help children build a foundation in reading so they can complete their education and participate in American society.

After 18 months in this role and listening to staff, funders, and stakeholders, I am more confident than ever that ESLC's work is essential and built upon proven best practices grounded in literacy research.

In response to the changes and challenges ESLC has experienced, theboard, staff and I have spent a lot of time evaluating and strategizing. Here's a summary of our conclustions. next steps we are considering.

Some things will change. Most will not. The mission will remain the same. The model will remain the same. Our Core Values (LEARN) and connection to the mission of the School Sisters of Notre Dame will be nurtured forward. These are key to our welcoming culture and form the foundation for continuing our work. The strategic plan with five focus areas is solid and aligned with research and best practices.

Our three goals are the same:

  1. Children will read at grade level with pride and joy by third grade. Reading by third grade is important because it is the point at which all other curriculum requires reading proficiency. In other words, children move from learning to read to reading to learn.

    ESLC will continue to provide expert literacy tutoring. Licensed educators will still lead each site and adapt lessons and materials to the unique needs of our children.

    In addition, to increase the number of students who achieve this milestone, the ESLC staff and Board are working on ideas to improve efficiency and increase staff capacity and skills to focus on the needs of students with high risk.
  2. Each child has the opportunity to develop a trusting relationship with a caring adult. ESLC’s model makes it possible for each child to develop a meaningful relationship with a tutor who shows up day after day, week after week–a tutor who cares about that particular child. This relationship is not only proven to improve learning, but it also contributes to social emotional growth. One-on-one conversations help children develop oral skills and vocabulary.

    Tutors increase learning by respecting the child’s culture, ethnicity, language, and personality. They treat each child as a small person with unique gifts, strengths, and values. Trusting tutor-child relationships are ESLC’s secret sauce.

    We will continue to hire professional educators or certified literacy experts to work with the most at-risk students.

  3. Provide parents with resources and tools to encourage their child to read at home, and often. Children who practice reading at home grow their skills faster. Growing faster is essential to catch up by third grade.

    Together—proven literacy education practices, trusting relationships with tutors, and parents—will ensure each child’s reading growth. 

Finally, we will continue to partner with schools and community organizations and leaders to ensure the success of our young readers. We will continue to focus on continuous improvement in these areas to find tactics that help at-risk readers, the percentage of whom has increased over the past several years. 

In summary, the board, staff, and leadership worked hard and efficiently for the first 17 years of ESLC’s “life." The foundation is solid for ESLC to focus squarely on its mission and long-term sustainability.

A vision for ESLC's future: Sustainability and Growth

ESLC will do what it has always done well, including expansion of its continuous improvement activities. We are having conversations to develop earned income opportunities. We will continue to work to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive for the benefit of the children. We are working with Propel Nonprofits consulting to ESLC to further develop our fundraising strategy so we can focus on increasing our impact on the East Side. All of these strategic and timely discussions are aimed at one thing: ensuring ESLC continues to help children learn to read next year, in 2021, 2025, and 2045.

The most exciting news of the day is a program in partnership with Community of Peace to develop a Pre-Kindergarten Literacy Program. The goal of the program will be to ensure each child is Kindergarten-ready. The evidence is mounting that if children start behind in Kindergarten, catching up is more costly for the community and more challenging for the child. And according to a 2015 study by Lynn Fielding, the gap for children who start behind remains throughout school. In other words, if a child starts school behind, he or she is not likely to catch up.

Today, to be the change for a future filled with confident readers living and working on the East Side, I am personally asking each of you, as stakeholders in this incredible mission, to continue your financial and volunteer support, to call with questions or concerns, and to send your many ideas. We are listening. Please share and contribute to the development of the East Side's future, our children.