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This past summer, New Jersey Children’s Foundation announced it was funding an unusual faith-based initiative between Newark’s Metropolitan Baptist Church and Great Oaks Legacy Charter School. The program was in response to Newark families’ overwhelming desire for intensive one-on-one tutoring after news (which the district tried to hide) that their children had endured “staggering” learning loss: only 9% of Newark students were meeting state expectations in math and 11% of students were meeting expectations in reading. After discussion among all three groups, the Church, led by Reverend Dr. David Jefferson, and the public charter, led by Jared Taillefer, decided to offer all Newark’s ninth and tenth-grade students free Saturday tutoring sessions.
Today the Metropolitan Baptist Church, Great Oaks Legacy Charter School, and the NJ Children’s Foundation* announced that Prudential Financial will fund the next stage of “Newark Unites Tutoring Center,” which will enable the team to continue tutoring students throughout the 2021-2022 school year. Like last summer, the program will be housed in the Church at 149 Springfield Avenue and the free tutoring and support in reading and algebra will be run by Great Oaks, a natural choice given that the charter, which has educated Newark public school students for a decade in seven sites, is well known for its distinctive tutoring model. During the pandemic school disruptions, Great Oaks, which serves 1,600 K-12th graders, gained national and state recognition for providing one of the most effective, research-based interventions to address learning loss. At Great Oaks, “tutor fellows” support teachers, students, and parents all year long, which leads to both college matriculation rates of 80-90%–far higher than the state average– and a more diverse teaching staff.
Snacks, school materials, and security are provided for all students. Those enrolled are expected to attend each Saturday with their designated tutor. Families interested in the service can sign up here. The program selects students on a first-come, first-served basis.
“The faith-based partnership that created the Newark Unites Tutoring Center represents our local approach to global philanthropy,” explained Shané Harris, President of The Prudential Foundation. “We are pleased to support the Center as it provides another opportunity for Newark’s public-school students to thrive in our hometown.”
“This is but one small example of how schools, faith-based institutions and philanthropy can partner to create “right now” solutions to our most pressing problems,” said Kyle Rosenkrans, Executive Director of the New Jersey Children’s Foundation, a non-profit based in Newark that is supporting the project and is the recipient of the Prudential grant. “Newark is home to some of the best public schools in America and we’re focused on how they can share what’s working with more and more students across the city and help the entire system recover,” he added.
Pastor Jefferson told NJ Ed Report last summer, “parents have lost so much confidence, so much trust in the district. They feel their voices have not been heard. There’s something about a faith-based institution that leads to trust, that leads to hope. We’re laying the groundwork for a bigger expansion, a different vision of education in Newark that can break through barriers.” Today he added, “This school year, in swift and unprecedented fashion, parents, students, educators, along with faith, education, and funding institutions – must put bureaucracy and politics aside to join together to do what is right for our kids.”
Tallifer, Executive Director of Great Oaks, expressed his gratitude to Prudential “for ensuring this critical initiative will continue throughout the school year,” adding, “our schools were built on a model that provides research-proven, high dosage tutoring from Americorps volunteers that help give every student in our buildings the advantage they need to get to college and have successful lives. At this time of great need, we want to share that resource with the broader community.”
*NJ Children’s Foundation is a grantor to brightbeam, which supports NJ Education Report.