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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Monday, October 3, 2011

Schools of Hope Sonoma County

Hidden Epidemic

Schools of Hope Program Targets Core Life Skills

By Sylvia WynnLindeman
This is strictly an editorial comment but to me it seems that so many people in Sonoma County are living the most amazing of lives. Surrounded by artists, foodies, wine enthusiasts, and those who wax eloquent about sustainability, we enjoy the beauty of our environment, conduct our business and interact with friends who are “just a cut above” in terms of philosophical bent and education….

How’s this for a shocker, then?
In Sonoma County 54% of our third grade students are reading below grade level. Nearly 80% of third grade students who are also English Language Learners are reading below grade level.

Education is the cornerstone of individual community success. It is essential for finding and keeping a job with a livable wage and health benefits. Reading is a core building block of education and vital for mastering the skills necessary to thrive. Too many of our children are failing, and there is evidence of a wide achievement gap.

Research shows third-grade reading proficiency is a powerful predictor of later academic achievement. Children who have not mastered reading skills by this critical juncture continue to fall further behind in school and are much more susceptible to academic and behavior problems. Little wonder then that 25% of our students are not completing high school on time.

What can we do in this era of bare bones funding and governmental downsizing?
One answer may rest in an innovative program launched a year ago when the United Way of the Wine Country partnered with the Volunteer Center, local school districts and several community organizations and - in an effort to stem this alarming trend – introduced Schools of Hope into the mix.

Schools of Hope is an early intervention model for children who are struggling with reading. The core components of the program include one-to-one literacy tutoring, volunteer recruitment and training, family engagement, and rigorous program evaluation.

Currently 46% of our third graders are reading at grade level. The Schools of Hope goal is to increase that percentage to 75% by 2015 and to 90% by 2020.

And this is where you come in.
Since its start up during the 2010-2011 school year, the Schools of Hope program has helped 180 students increase their reading proficiency through one-on-one tutoring in six Santa Rosa elementary schools. If this is an issue you’d like to help cure and you have as little as one hour per week to volunteer, you can make the difference in a child’s future.

Schools of Hope is currently preparing volunteers – from all walks of life - to provide 30 minute one-on-one tutoring sessions during the school day for the duration of the school year (October through the end of May). They ask that you commit to at least one tutoring session per week and in most cases, door-to-door time will be less than one hour.

Regardless of your background, the Schools of Hope Training Session will provide the basic skills that you need to be comfortable and effective as a tutor and your time availability will be matched with the needs of the participating school nearest you
Schools in the program provide activities and materials for you to use and do their best to provide the best possible setting for you to work with your student, whether it be the back of a classroom or the school library. In addition to help from the program’s School Site Coordinator, you will have the support of your school’s Principal and the opportunity to attend advanced training as the year progresses.

While you will not receive formal progress reports, as a tutor, you will be informally assessing the students progress through your activities. In addition, teachers may be able to share more information with you when needed to the extent that privacy laws allow.

Need to know more before you commit? No problem! Register for an orientation session today! Contact Barbara Fisher at the Sonoma County Volunteer Center at 707-573-3399 or For more information visit

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