LEARNING ENGLISH AMONG FRIENDS (LEAF)


Organization's Background and Need for the Project

General background, experience, and purpose of the organization. Two organizations are integrally related to the Learning English Among Friends (LEAF) program and this family literacy proposal: 1) Baylor University, specifically the Schools of Social Work and Education whose faculty members developed and operate LEAF with support from the university's GEAR UP Waco project; and 2) Ceasar Chavez Middle School (CCMS), where the LEAF program is located.

Founded in 1845, Baylor University's mission is "to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community." To fulfill its mission Baylor provides not only high caliber academic instruction but also emphasizes community service by its students, faculty, and staff.
Baylor's School of Education is committed to helping every child do well in school and has been significantly involved with literacy since its founding in 1845. Sixteen education students currently teach regular classes at Waco Independent Middle Schools, and another 120 students provide tutoring weekly. Dr. Randy Wood, Professor of Education, is the administrator for all School of Education activities at the middle schools. His leadership in LEAF reflects the School's desire to help families develop the skills they need to function better in society.

The School of Social Work is involved in an array of professional and community projects through its Center for Family and Community Ministries. A central tenet of the School is community building through strengthening families, which is at the heart of the LEAF program.
The founding literacy program is at Cesar Chavez Middle School which is an entirely neighborhood-based public school that serves a Hispanic, low-income community located about one mile from the Baylor campus. During its first year of operation, the school discovered that nearly 70 percent of the parents of its students could neither read nor write English with any proficiency. This created severe communication barriers among the teachers, the students, and their parents. To help overcome this obstacle, the school's Campus Decision-Making Committee asked Dr. Wood if he would implement an English as a Second Language (ESL) program at CCMS. The program was based upon the family literacy model Dr. Wood and Dr. Rob Rogers, Associate Professor at the School of Social Work, were developing at the Baylor Literacy Center, which trains voluntary literacy consultants throughout Texas. This program has been so successful that we would like to expand it to other campuses with great 6th grade needs.


Existing literacy program

Drs. Wood and Rogers launched Learning English Among Friends (LEAF) in September 2003. This English as a Second Language (ESL) program initially targeted parents with children enrolled at CCMS, but widespread interest led to welcoming any community resident. Classes meet for one hour on Thursday evenings in the CCMS library. Fourteen Baylor students who have been trained as ESL teachers teach the 114 adult participants, who study in 14 small groups according to skill level. Staff from the YMCA provide child care and recreation for the participants' children of all ages. After class, LEAF provides a family dinner during which a guest speaker makes a presentation about a topic of interest to participants (e.g., Earned Income Tax Credit, installing smoke detectors, preventive health tips, etc.). Also, requests by community residents led in January 2004 to the beginning of a GED class on Thursday evenings taught by instructors from the community college.

Relationship to mission and significant benefits. We are seeking funds to expand the adult ESL program to more locations so that more low-income non-English speaking Adults can be helped. The expanded program will benefit Baylor University by offering its students additional community service learning opportunities. However, the primary beneficiaries will be families who are struggling to adjust to an English language culture and a workforce where decent paying jobs require increased levels of education. The children of these families will develop proficiency in reading English at an earlier age, thus enabling them to learn more in the critical early years of school.

Statement of need. LEAF's 40-square block target community in South Waco is characterized by high levels of poverty and literacy deficiency in both English and Spanish. These demographics are predictive of a high-risk of school failure and the perpetuation of poverty. Reversing this situation has been the driving force for implementing the LEAF adult ESL program last fall and for expanding it into a family literacy program next year.

According to the Waco ISD, the ethnic composition of the families in this community is 9 percent African-American, 3 percent Anglo, and 88 percent Hispanic. Approximately 80 percent of the community's employed adults work in shift-labor positions or day-labor jobs. Over 95 percent of the elementary and middle school students participate in the free/reduced lunch program. According to the Census Bureau in 1999, Spanish was the language of 42 percent of the households, and of these nearly one in three was considered linguistically isolated. Also, there were approximately 1,200 children in this community ages 4-8 years.
Number and characteristics of participants to be served. Participants in the family literacy program will come from the LEAF program. Approximately 20 of the LEAF participants who have children pre-K to 3rd grade will be able to enroll their children in the new children's reading component. If any of these parents has more than one eligible child, the number of participating families will be reduced accordingly to ensure that total enrollment in the PACT component will not exceed the maximum limit of 40 participants (e.g., 20 adults in ESL + 20 children in the reading component = 40 in the PACT component).
The ESL participants range in age from 18 to 73 (median age of 23); none has more than a fifth-grade education in Mexico's schools; and the income of approximately 70 percent of their households is below poverty level. Relevant information about their children can be found in Texas Education Agency data for the two elementary schools that they attend. Thirty-four (34) percent of the students are enrolled in bilingual/ESL classes compared to 10 percent in the Waco ISD and 14 percent statewide, and 39 percent are considered to have limited English proficiency. Only 73 percent of the Hispanic students met the 2002 TAKS reading standard-17 percent less than both the Waco ISD and statewide averages. The retention rates for grades K-3 are higher than either the district or statewide averages, with 17% of the first graders retained at Sul Ross.
The adult ESL component will continue to use the Oxford Picture Dictionary (Oxford University Press) as the primary text, supplemented by OPD workbooks and object lessons prepared by the teachers. Instruction will continue to be one hour per week in groups of 5-8 students taught by ESL trained Baylor education majors.


LEAF articles

Waco Tribune 9/21/03 article
Waco Tribune article 10/25/03
Lariat LEAF article 10/1/2003