soaring stars logoSoaring Stars 

Promoting student engagement and success in early education

It is anticipated that 65 children will participate in Year 4 of this project.

Livingston County includes ten school districts and serves over 8000 children, with approximately 36% of the students from low-income families as measured by free and reduced lunch rates ((NYSED 2012-2013 Report Card Data, http://data.nysed.gov/enrollment.php?year=2013&county=24). Attendance rates and graduation rates at schools in some school districts in Livingston County represent some disconnect between attendance and persistence. For example, (a) the 2005 cohort of Danville’s “on-time” graduation rate was 76%, yet their average attendance during their four high school years was 96%; (b) Mount Morris reported an on-time graduate rate of 78% for a similar cohort, with high school attendance rate of 94.75%; and (c) York Central School District has a good high school graduation rate (91%), but their third-grade English Language Arts and Math scores at Level 3 or above dropped from 70% plus to 48% (2005-6 to 2008-9).

According to the Rural School and Community Trust (2011; retrieved from http://www.ruraledu.org/articles.php?id=2820), in regards to academics, students from rural areas are (a) less likely to do well in college, (b) less likely to attend competitive top tier colleges as compared to similarly achieving low-SES urban and suburban students, (c) less likely to have access to on-site AP courses, and (d) less likely to have access to afterschool and summer enrichment opportunities.  

This suggests that variables that impact learning and graduation rates in rural areas may not be linked to attendance, but perhaps, rooted in poverty, access to enrichment opportunties, and curriculum.    

The goal of the Soaring Stars Program  is to develop a sense of self-confidence, self-efficacy, and accomplishment in students through engaging, inquiry-based, provocative learning experiences that value the student, teacher, and the environment as equal contributors to the experience.  Specifically, we want students to see themselves as capable, intelligent, and creative individuals who are able to collaborate and communicate appropriately with their peers and teachers to accomplish common goals.

This approach values the child, the environment and the teacher as equal statekholders in the learning process

Results from Prior Years

In 2014, with support from the Genseo Foundation, the Office of the Provost of SUNY Geneseo, the Ella Cline Shear School of Education, the United Way of Livingston County, The Feinbloom Supporting Foundation (see the Rochester Area Community Foundation), and the Wilson Foundation, 48 children participated in the program.  With new funding for field trips, we infused outdoor education into our program

In 2013, with support from the Genseo Foundation, the Office of the Provost of SUNY Geneseo, the Ella Cline Shear School of Education, the Rochester Area Community Foundation, and the Wilson Foundation, 37 children from nine school districts attended Soaring Stars. Parent attendance at Open House remained high, with approximately 90% of families attending at least one open house during the program.

In 2012, with partial support from the Wilson Foundation, the faculty and staff at SUNY Geneseo’s nationally accredited Ella Cline Shear School of Education implemented this program, serving 26 rural, low-income students in Kindergarten and grade 1. With students engaged in provocative learning experiences in the first half of the day, followed by teacher planning and instruction around these activities in the second half of the day, instruction is geared to the needs, interests, and questions of students to develop language and math-readiness skills. Supported with funding from the Wilson Foundation and from SUNY Geneseo, the program was successful in terms of participation rates, buy-in, and reported impact on students. With an average of 98% attendance during the 6-week program, 100% of parents and guardians expressed satisfaction with the program and 98% are committed to their child participating in 2013. All families attended at least one of the two open houses.

Additionally, 100% of the current academic year principals and/or teachers of all the 2012 - 2013 cohorts reported improvement for their students in one or more of the following areas:
  • self-esteem

  • reduction of high-risk behaviors

  • social skills