SUBMITTED BY REQUEST TO
EXPANDING CHILDRENS DEFENSE FUND FREEDOM
INCREASING AVAILABILITY OF BEST PRACTICES
FOR AFTER-SCHOOL AND SUMMER SCHOOL PROGRAMS
Proposal submitted by
North East Area Development (NEAD) and
Quad A for Kids
Proposal prepared by
Dr. Mark A. Biernbaum
Institute for Strategic Inquiry and Study (ISIS)
Submitted to: Interim Superintendent William Calla
Rochester Central School District (RCSD)
Submitted by: North East Area Development (NEAD)
Quad A for Kids
Regarding: Expansion of the Children’s Defense Fund
Freedom School After-School and Summer
This proposal begins to address one problem well documented in the RCSD – the
relative lack of high-quality, evidence-based after-school enrichment programs.
Although the District itself and several partner organizations (including NEAD and
Quad A and others) do provide some after-school programming, there is a definitive
and openly acknowledged need for more after-school enrichment programs. This
problem was thoroughly documented by the Center for Governmental Research
(CGR) in their 2000 Monroe County After-School Provider Survey (currently being
updated by The Children’s Agenda). That survey found that only 12% of qualifying
5-14 year olds in Monroe County participate in any after-school program. The
updated numbers, due this year, are expected to be lower, given the cut in 21
Century Schools funding and goal shortfalls for the last 2 years at the United Way of
Greater Rochester, a major underwriter of after-school programs in the City.
This proposal addresses the need for such programs at the elementary level. We
acknowledge upfront that even if this proposal is implemented, there will still be a
substantial number of elementary school children without after-school programs in
the RCSD. Therefore, this proposal does not aim to solve that problem entirely, but
to advance a model, evidence-based enrichment program that has proven very
effective thus far in the RCSD.
We also want to make clear that the lack of after-school enrichment programs is not
unique to Rochester – it’s a national issue. Our partner in this effort is the Children’s
Defense Fund (CDF), and expansion of after-school programming is one of their
main advocacy priorities nationally. Additionally, local community partners like the
United Way of Greater Rochester, the Rochester Area Community Foundation, the
Daisy Marquis Jones Foundation, and the Greater Rochester After-School Alliance
(GRASA) are all invested in expanding available, evidence-based after-school
programs, as is the District itself.
The context in which the RCSD operates is important to acknowledge and is salient
to the Freedom School model being proposed. Although Rochester is 73rd in city
size in the U.S., it is 11th in child poverty and 21
in murder rate. Eighty percent of
the District’s students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch based on family income.
The Federal Reserve Board is now in the process of completing a study, the
Concentrated Poverty Initiative, which selected the 16 U.S. cities with the highest
rates of concentrated poverty, and unfortunately, Rochester was one of those cities.
These facts have a profound effect on the functioning of the RCSD – they are a
reality that RCSD staff and faculty deal with everyday. Any program that is
proposed for implementation by the RCSD must take this picture of urban poverty
into account – meaning that any new program implemented in the District must be designed
for and proven effective in school districts existing in amidst high levels of urban poverty and
The RCSD also has a specifically identified curricular need in the area of English
Language Arts, having been previously sited as a “District in Corrective Action for
English Language Arts” by the New York State Department of Education. Therefore,
any proposed educational enrichment program for the RCSD should incorporate a strong focus on
The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom School model was developed explicitly
to “provide opportunities for children and families in communities where quality and
academic enrichment programming are rare, cost prohibitive, or non-existent...CDF
targets low-income and minority children because children of poor
families are more likely to grow up in literacy and language poor
environments” (Children’s Defense Fund). Thus, there is a strong match between
the poverty conditions the RCSD operates in, the population the RCSD teaches, and
the need in the RCSD for enhanced ELA programming.
Data from NEAD’s 2007 Freedom School Summer program are illustrative of the
target population for this proposal. This information is based on the 143 applications
filled out for the Freedom School Summer program.
Seventy-three percent of Freedom Scholars were African-American, 15.4% were
Latino, 2.8% were White, 4.2% identified as biracial, and 3.5% selected “other.”
Similar to the District as a whole, 75% of Freedom Scholars reported receiving free
or reduced price lunches. Single parent homes were more frequent – nearly 70% of
Freedom Scholars are growing up with only one parent. Approximately 40% of
parents reported being unemployed, and 30% reported having only a high school
diploma, a GED, or less. Fifty percent of these children live in households with 5 or
more people, 33% live in households with 4 or more children, and 50% have
household annual incomes of $20K or less. Fifteen percent of Freedom Scholars
reported having ADD, depression/anxiety, conduct/behavior problems, autism, or
some other developmental delay, with 9% reporting an actual diagnosis of learning
disability. Over 50% of these children had not seen a doctor in the previous year –
not even for a physical, and close to 80% had not seen a dentist in the previous year
either. Twenty percent reported having no health insurance at all – not even
Medicaid or Child Health Plus. Twelve percent of parents showed evidence of
extreme isolation, being unable to provide an emergency contact for their child. A
small number of families did not have an address to report. A small number of
applications for the program were clearly filled out by children, rather than parents.
This is indeed a high-poverty, at-risk population characteristic of exactly the types of
children that the CDF developed the Freedom School model to serve. These data
also parallel, in large part, data for the RCSD as a whole.
History: CDF Freedom School Programs
In 1964, Marion Wright, future founder and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund,
participated with other young leaders in the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. During
the Project, Wright and others conceived of the idea of “freedom schools” to take their
civil rights message to African-American communities throughout the state. College-age
volunteers traveled throughout Mississippi to teach African-American students for 6-8
weeks using curriculum designed to promote equality, enhanced self-identity, learning,
social activism and community engagement. Children, young people, and adults
attended these “freedom schools,” where they received reading instruction, voter
education, health benefits, and other simple rights that they had previously been denied.
In 1995, Marion Wright Edelman reinvigorated these basic concepts, and with the help of
expert researchers and educators, and a renewed and pronounced emphasis on literacy
development, created the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program. The
program is now an integral part of the CDF’s “Leave No Child Behind” mission. In 2006,
8,000 children were enrolled in Freedom School programs nationally, at over 102 sites in
49 different cities and 24 states. The program has spread rapidly – there was a 70%
increase in the number of participating sites between 2003 and 2006, indicating high
demand, due both to the program’s characteristics, and CDF’s vigorous evaluation
research (supported by the Kellogg Foundation), which has consistently indicated high
levels of program effectiveness.
The CDF Freedom Schools program serves children and families in after-school and
summer school settings via an evidence-based curriculum focused on literacy, youth
development, cultural competency, civics, and community activism.
The program has 5 central pillars:
1. Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC)
Experts from the Children’s Defense Fund recommended literature for all grade
levels of participating students, and the selected books are now purchased directly
from CDF, and are organized into a carefully designed, age-appropriate curriculum.
The literature that is selected must enhance vocabulary development, provide
positive role models, demonstrate civic engagement and activism, be culturally
relevant, and be appealing to the target population.
In the 2000 Monroe County After-School Survey mentioned previously, CGR found
that most programs reviewed did not have a standard curriculum. In the Freedom
School model, not only are the texts pre-selected, but they come embedded in a
evidence-based curriculum with lesson and activity plans included. CDF has done
this to make Freedom Schools as easy as possible to implement.
The IRC is embedded within a larger pedagogical system that continuously
emphasizes the importance of reading. When students first arrive at the program,
Harambe! Begins. Harambe includes vigorous chanting, singing and dancing, and
helps children celebrate who they are and practice the interplay of words, phrases
and rhythms. After Harambe concludes, the first literacy exposure occurs when all
children are read a story in circle time.
In Freedom School after-school programs, every child is exposed to at least 2
different books each day, five days per week (for a total of 40 books per month).
Sometimes these books are read-aloud by a Servant Leader (counselor), sometimes
students read to one another or alone if able, and activities are designed to follow-up
on each reading exposure, exploring new words and ideas through various methods,
including acting-out parts of the stories or using the story as a discussion spring-
board for more general topics of interest, like humanitarianism and civil rights. All of
the five pillars of the Freedom School model can be found in the books selected,
creating a holistic pedagogy and curriculum that starts and ends with literacy
2. Intergenerational Servant Leadership Development
Key to delivery of the Freedom School program is the modeling of intergenerational
servant leadership. Each participating site must recruit both high school and
college-level student leaders to actually deliver the program. College student
servant leaders from all over the country must attend the Ella Baker Child Policy
Training Institute Workshop, an intense 10-day training conducted by the Children’s
Defense Fund at the Alex Haley Farm. High school servant leaders are trained by
local program staff and supervised by the college-levels student leaders. All servant
leaders are thoroughly trained in classroom management, delivery of the Integrated
Reading Curriculum, music therapy, and minority cultures and histories.
Mentoring is explicit in the Freedom School model. Site Coordinators mentor Senior
Servant Leaders (college students), Senior Servant Leaders (SSLs) mentor Junior
Servant Leaders (JSLs; high school students), and the JSLs and SSLs act as
mentors to the children. Mentoring is also embedded in the Parent and Civic
Engagement pillars, discussed below.
Observations of our servant leaders by a trained developmental psychologist
indicated that students form strong, affectionate bonds with their older peers—likely
a key factor in engaging students to learn. We are now collecting data on the
development of these relationships, as we believe they are central to enticing our
students to actively adopt the Freedom School program – and in particular, its
emphasis on reading.
Because of its emphasis on Intergenerational Servant Leadership, the CDF
Freedom School model also has a second target population: high school
students who serve as Junior Servant Leaders. NEAD currently runs 2
Freedom School After-School programs, at schools #3 and #34. Right now there
are 33 Junior Servant Leaders participating in the program, and more are being
trained. The Children’s Defense Fund has followed the experience of the Servant
Leaders closely, as has NEAD. Their survey data indicates that Servant Leaders
gain significant increases in terms of ethnic affirmation and belonging, and male
Servant Leaders in particular demonstrate significant positive increases in their
attitudes towards serving their communities. Thus, benefits of participation in CDF
Freedom Schools for this second target population do not just include training and
support in delivering a curriculum, mentoring, and working with children – but also
have specific and positive effects on servant leaders themselves. The student-to-
Servant Leader ratio in CDF Freedom Schools is 10:1.
3. Civic Engagement and Social Action
Likely due to the program’s history of emergence during the Civil Right’s struggle of
the 60s, CDF Freedom Schools emphasize engagement with the community and
social activism. All students attending a Freedom School program engage in
multiple civic engagement projects and take social action in their community on key
issues. Students automatically participate in all of the Children’s Defense Fund
advocacy initiatives, include their Social Day of Action and voting rights campaigns.
They also participate in multiple community service projects.
During the last school year, some of our students engaged in an active letter-writing
campaign to local officials regarding the level of gun violence in their neighborhood
and the negative impact it had on their lives. Students also volunteered time to help
paint a set of child-size chairs for the brothers and sisters of babies in our local
neonatal care unit.
Along with students all over the country, our students have also joined the Children’s
Defense Fund’s campaign for child health care coverage. Some of our students
became youth representatives on an urban renewal project that is currently
underway. One of the themes that students repeat every day, as part of their
opening activities is: I can and must make a difference in my self, my family, community,
country, and world. Therefore, character development is tied intimately to social
responsibility and personal interconnectedness in the Freedom School model.
4. Parent and Family Engagement
Monthly meetings are organized for parents, and parents are mentored in
fundraising for the program and their schools, and are supported in their social
activism and community engagement. They also participate as site volunteers. The
existing Freedom School Parent Group has organized to such an extent to elect
officers. Freedom School Parent Groups serve as excellent drivers of increased
neighborhood social capital in some of our poorest neighborhoods – places where
increased social and economic capital are needed the most. They therefore serve a
vital community function. NEAD invests a great deal of time and resources in the
development and support of the parent group.
During our summer program, 85% of parents attended parent meetings. These
meetings provided opportunities for neighborhood parents to get together informally
and discuss issues central to them and their children and community. Information
arising from these meetings proved invaluable to staff at NEAD, an organization
focused on community development.
5. Nutrition, Health and Mental Health
Through a partnership with Foodlink, all of our students are offered a healthy snack
and hot meal as part of the program. For some students, this may be the only hot
meal they’ll receive in a given day. CDF Freedom Scholars also engage in
recreational/sporting activities, like Tae Kwon Do, dance instruction, and other
traditional sports. The program attempts to model making healthy food choices, and
staying physically fit. And, as mentioned earlier, the daily program starts with the
vigorous Harambe!, 30 minutes of chant, song, and dance, which help children
positively direct their physical and mental energies before engaging in structured
learning activities which require sustained attention, like the Integrated Reading
CDF Freedom Schools also place a strong emphasis on mental health and personal
wellness. Students engage in music therapy, led by their trained Servant Leaders.
Small group discussions focus on difficult topics like exposure to community
violence, racism and self-esteem, family difficulties, drug abuse in their communities,
other others. Students receive quality facilitation and support during these
oftentimes intense discussions by their trained Servant Leaders.
Outcome and Program-Level Data
Evaluation is built-in to the CDF Freedom School model. In addition, NEAD
participates in other evaluation efforts, as discussed below.
Fourth grade CDF Freedom School Scholars made greater gains on
New York State’s English Language Arts exam compared to their
counterparts who did not participate. Sixty-six percent (66%) of
Freedom Scholars achieved one grade level advanced on this
standardized exam at the end of a year of Freedom School,
compared to only 32% of non-Freedom School fourth graders. The
Freedom School model has achieved significant effects on children’s literacy in the
Rochester Central School District.
In addition, at the start of program participation, only 37.7% of Freedom Scholars
indicated “I love to read,” and only 30.2% reported reading one new book each
week. By the end of their participation in Freedom School, these percentages had
significantly increased, from 62% indicating they had read a new book in the past
week, to nearly 60% endorsing “I love to read.” Thus, the Integrated Reading
Curriculum not only significantly increases literacy skills, it also clearly significantly
increases students love for and engagement in reading.
Other indicators of program success:
Survey Statement: Percent of
during the first
week of the
(n = 53)
during the last
week of the
(n = 53)
I help other people 47% 79%
I am a peacemaker 34% 68%
I act responsibly 42% 83%
I can work out my
I can do many things
Children’s Involvement in Violence
(“in last 30 days…)
How many fights? 23 students say at
7 students say at
How many time tease,
harass another student
17 students say at
6 students say at
Children’s Attitudes Towards Parents and Adults
Survey Statement Number before
My family has clear
39 agree 46 agree
I can ask my parents
for help when it’s
43 agree 48 agre
I have other adults I
can go do for help
when it’s important
43 agree 53 (100% in
NEAD is also participating in the Youth Program Quality Assessment (UPQA)
project being conducted by the Children’s Institute. The YPQA was
constructed to measure several aspects of a program, including the safety of the
environment, how supportive the environment is for children, how much interaction
children are involved in, and encouragement given for goal-setting and self-reflection
by the program. On their most recent review, NEAD’s CDF Freedom School
received an overall rating of 4.29 out of 5, with especially high scores in interaction
and support. NEAD believes that data from instruments like the YPQA are essential
in monitoring and improving program effectiveness.
Towards that end, NEAD has contracted with a Developmental Psychologist to
integrate additional program evaluation components.
By endorsing the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School model, the Rochester
Central School District would be embracing a model with proven academic and
Brief Budget Narrative
In anticipation of making a formal presentation to the District regarding the Freedom
School Expansion Proposal, we provide here some per child costs associated with
CDF Freedom School After-School and Summer School program. We are also
presenting the summer school costs because NEAD, Quad A for Kids, and the
Children’s Defense fund strongly suggest that full-year programming is the most
Please note that these figures include salaries for Site Coordinators, and stipends
for our Senior Servant Leaders, as well as training costs and curriculum/materials
After-School Program Costs
Cost per child Number of Number Costs per day/per child
Weeks of days
$2,000 32 160 $12.50 per day/per child
Note: After-School programs run for 3 hours/day = 480 hours
Summer School Program Costs
Costs per child Number of Number Costs per day/per child
Weeks of days
$1200 5 25 $48 per day/per
Note: Summer school programs run for 8 hours/day = 200 hours
Full Year Program Costs
Costs per child Number of Number Costs per day/per child
Weeks of days
$3200 37 185 $17 per day/per
Therefore, an elementary child in the RCSD can receive year round Freedom School
programming for a total cost of $3,145.
NEAD and Quad A for Kids would like to propose a gradual
expansion of the CDF Freedom School After-School and Summer
programs into each District elementary school over the next 3 years.
Plans are currently underway to offer the After-School program at School No. 33.
Both community partners are working actively to find business partners to assist with
this expansion, and are pursuing grant funding as well.
The Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School program has:
1. Partner Buy-In
Both the Rochester Area Community Foundation and the Daisy Marquis
Jones Foundation are supporting the program. New, corporate sponsors are
2. Contextual Correctness
The program is specifically designed for poverty environments and to
3. Proven Results
Students who participate improve significantly in English language arts,
attitudes towards parents and adults, and self-perception.
4. Cultural Relevance
The program uses a curriculum and training materials that are extremely
5. Community Buy-In
City residents whose children have participated in a Freedom School are
involved and organized.
We therefore submit the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School Program to the
Rochester Central School District as an ideal after-school and summer enrichment