Livingston County includes ten school districts and served 9263 students in the past year, with approximately 24% of the students from low-income families. 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). This suggests that variables that impact learning and graduate rates might be multiple and, perhaps, rooted in poverty.
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.