Saturday School Doubles Young Students’ Literacy Scores, Data Suggests

Saturday School Doubles Young Students’ Literacy Scores, Data Suggests

Thomas Learning Center programs offered in a dozen schools

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A Saturday school program offered in county schools last year drastically improved reading performance for students in kindergarten through third grade.

The George B. Thomas Learning Center, started in 1986 in Olney, this year is piloting an assessment tool to identify growth in reading achievement.

Preliminary assessment results show kindergarten through third-grade participants outperform their peers who do not attend the classes and have a large improvement in reading skills.

Kindergarten literacy test scores about doubled between September 2018 and January 2019, and second- and third-grade students also saw significant growth, according to a new report.

Achievement for students in fourth- through eighth-grade slightly improved or remained steady, based on the school system’s assessment.

Learning center Executive Director Khadija Barkley said all students benefit from the learning center’s weekend programs expanding academic knowledge and socializing.

“Not everything is quantifiable,” Superintendent Jack Smith said. “It’s important to have this available to our students.”

School board members say they are interested in expanding the center’s programming to provide after-school programs and summer classes. No formal plans have developed.

The program, offered at 12 high schools, has an enrollment of 2,940 students who receive peer tutoring, English language learning support, math and science classes, SAT and ACT preparation, robotics programs and access to science, technology, engineering and math programs.

About half of the students who attend programs from the George B. Thomas Learning Center are eligible for free or reduced-priced meal programs and 76% are black or Hispanic.

The data shows students who attend consistently over the 23 weeks the program is offered more frequently meet school system literacy and math standards.

Sally Gutloff, whose 5- and 7-year-old daughters attend Saturday schoo,l said her daughters have “greatly benefited” from the program.

She added she hopes classes for adult English-language learners, cut in recent years due to a lack of funding, will be reinstated. She emphasized the need for classes for adults to learn English.
“It’s just been great there … They really do enrich the community in so many different ways” she said. “Saturday school is something I never knew about until I became a parent.”

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at

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