Organizations work together to improve academic outcomes of Detroit children

You can see the pride in Lourdes Valdivia’s eyes when she talks about her three sons, ages 3, 9, and 11. Each weekday morning, she and her sons walk through the doors of Harms Elementary in Southwest Detroit. Her oldest two children head for their classrooms, but it’s not the last they’ll see of their mom throughout their school day. That’s because Valdivia participates in a program that allows her to both learn English and how to better support her sons’ education.

“My time in the classroom has helped my children be better students,” Valdivia said. “We’ve also developed a stronger bond. We go to the zoo, library, soccer games, and we read and do homework together.”

Throughout the years, evaluations of National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) programs have proven that intergenerational family literacy is an effective way to close achievement gaps that exist between children from affluent families and children living in poverty. This is most recently demonstrated with our partner Southwest Solutions in Detroit.

It may sound like a no-brainer that being an engaged parent leads to better academic outcomes for children. But this Detroit program—which is based on NCFL’s family literacy model—is making a big impact.

NCFL’s latest research brief, The Collective Impact of Social Innovation on a Two-Generation Learning Program, explores what can happen when organizations join forces towards a common cause. This brief examines Southwest Solutions’ English Language Learners’ Program (ELLP), a family literacy program designed to enhance the learning of young elementary students.

With support from the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Social Innovation Fund, United Way for Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM), Detroit Public Schools, and NCFL, Southwest Solutions’ ELLP positively affects academic achievement among Hispanic/Latino students.

NCFLCollectiveImpact_infographic2The results of the study of the 2014-15 school year are impressive. On average, students in ELLP had a 7.4% gain in reading level, achieved a 5.6% increase in reading proficiency, and attended 12 more days of school than comparison students. The study shows that participating parents helped their children have better school attendance rates, were more engaged in their children’s learning, and developed positive habits at home that supported their children’s academic attainment.

Valdivia sees the results every day. Her older boys have raised their grades and are doing better socially. In fact, they both went to the state math competition. “They see me as a teacher and a model. They are motivated by me being at their school and taking classes.”

The results of this study shine a light on the power of family literacy. When parent and child learn together, intergenerational cycles of low education and poverty can be broken.

Click here to read NCFL’s full Collective Impact brief.