Teaching to a need

Seeing a need in one of their own neighborhood elementary schools near Osyka, Miss., several School Sisters of Notre Dame this summer did what they do best: teach.

Sister Sylvia Hecht, SSND, with summer studentsA Mississippi law passed in 2013 requires third grade students to pass a 50-question multiple choice test on reading proficiency and comprehension before they can advance to fourth grade. The Literacy-Based Promotion Act was, unfortunately, leaving many students behind, so the sisters took action.

“We are all aware of where Mississippi stands in education,” said coordinator S. MarieClare Powell, referring to the 50th place ranking among the states. “We thought we could help because we have the resources.” The result was a three-week summer program at Osyka Elementary School that provided the lowest-performing students with four-day-a-week instruction to help bring them up the third grade reading level. This is part of a year-around program.

From left: Sisters Sylvia Hecht from Milwaukee; Maria Gomez from Dallas; MarieClare Powell and Dorothy Ann Balser from ChatawaOn the first day, 16 of the registered 18 students attended. “They really do come with joy,” she said. “There are no reluctant students.” Sister estimated two-thirds of the students’ parents cannot read, so there is little or no help at home.

After assuring the basic skills of phonics and fluency, Sisters Sylvia Hecht, Maria Gomez and Dorothy Ann Balser will use a cross-disciplinary approach including the reading of children’s literature, science, social studies and word problems in math to move the students toward proficiency.

Reports from those involved show their work is making a difference, not only in enrolled students but also among classmates.

Photos courtesy of Sister MarieClare Powell

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