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 since Jan. 1, 2017. 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 society.

After 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, the board, staff and I have spent a lot of time evaluating and strategizing. Here is a summary of our conclusions, with next steps being considered.

Some things will change. Most will not. The mission will remain the same. The program model will remain the same. Our Core Values (LEARN) and connection to the mission of the School Sisters of Notre Dame will continue to be promoted because they are key to our welcoming culture and the motivation for continuing our work. The strategic plan is solid and aligned with research and best practices.

Our three goals are:

  1. Each child reads confidently at grade level 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 quality literacy tutoring with the help of professional educators and volunteers that meets the needs of students. Licensed educators will still lead each site and provide ongoing coaching for the tutoring staff.

    Additionally, to increase the number of students who achieve this milestone, ESLC staff and board are working on ideas to improve efficiency, plus increase staff capacity and skills to focus on the needs of high-risk students.
  2. Each child develops a trusting relationship with a caring tutor who models and teaches skills for success in school and life. ESLC’s program 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 each child in his/her care. Such relationships are not only proven to enhance learning, they also contribute to social emotional growth. One-on-one conversations help children increase vocabulary and develop oral language skills as the bonding process deepens between a child and a caring adult.

    Tutors increase learning by respecting a child’s culture, ethnicity, language, and personality. They treat each child as a young person with unique gifts, strengths and values. Building trusting tutor-child relationships is a major ingredient in ESLC’s secret sauce.

    Hiring professional educators or certified literacy experts to work with the most at-risk students will continue.
  3. Parents encourage their child to consistently read at home. Children who practice reading at home grow their skills faster and growing faster is essential for children to read by third grade. Proven literacy best practices, coupled with trusting relationships with tutors and parents will support each child’s reading growth. 

Finally, we will continue to partner with schools, community organizations and leaders to promote the success of young readers. We will continue to focus on continuous improvement to help at-risk readers.

In summary, the board, staff, and leadership of ESLC worked hard and efficiently for the first 17 years of ESLC’s “life.” The foundation is solid so ESLC can 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 adjusting and expanding its continuous improvement plan. Major focus areas include:

  • engaging in conversations to develop earned income opportunities
  • strengthening efforts to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive 
  • consulting with Propel Nonprofits to further develop our fundraising strategy while increasing our impact on the East Side. 

All of these strategic and timely discussions are aimed at one thing: ensuring ESLC continues to grow readers and unlock potential this year, in 2020…in 2025…and beyond!

The most exciting news for this coming year is development of a Pre-K Literacy Program in partnership with Community of Peace Academy. The goal is for all children to be Kindergarten-ready at the end of Pre-K. Evidence is mounting that if a child begins Kindergarten behind his/her peers, it costs more for the community to intervene and it is often more challenging for the child. According to a 2015 study by Lynn Fielding, the gap for children who start school behind remains and even widens as children move from grade to grade. In other words, if a child starts school behind, s/he is unlikely to catch-up.

Our challenge

Each of us must 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. We need you to partner with us and contribute to the development of the East Side's future—our children!