Magazine article Humanities

Ten Years of Prime Time

Magazine article Humanities

Ten Years of Prime Time

Article excerpt

LOUISIANA EVERY SESSION OF THE PRIME TIME FAMILY Reading Time, a literacy program for at-risk families with children six to ten years old, begins the same way - with a meal. The program, which was started by the Louisiana. Endowment for the Humanities, also offers transportation, usually door-to-door. And it throws in child care for younger siblings.

It can seem like a village of resources is needed to staff the program. Both a trained storyteller and a humanities scholar are on hand to present that week's books and lead the discussion. A librarian is required to raise awareness of what the library system offers students and their families. And, to watch over the younger ones, a preschool coordinator is onsite.

The program asks a lot, but in return it delivers measurable gains in student achievement. A ten-year impact study of the program shows extensive benefits across an array of categories measuring intelectual development in grades 3 though 9 and during the high school years for students who participated in years past.

The study compared Prime Time participants in West Baton Rouge with a control group of peers from the same schools in the same parish. One difference between the groups was that the kids in Prime Time were on average poorer and more disadvantaged, since this was the target audience for Prime Time.

The findings are truly remarkable. Fourth graders in Prime Time outperformed their peers on the Louisiana Education Assessment Program (LEAP) in 25 out of 26 categories. Prime Time's sixth graders outperformed the control group in 43 out of 43 categories measured by the integrated version of LEAP

The one disappointing number was for eighth graders, whose performances on LEAP was not significantly different from those of their peers, but this was more than offset by the scores of high schoolers, who out-learned their peers in 21 out of 26 areas. In four of those areas, measuring science and math skills, the heavily at-risk Prime Time students outscored their peers by more than ten percentage points.

Another measure of its success is that after being piloted in Louisiana, where Prime Time has been implemented in all sixty- four parishes, the program has spread to thirtyeight states. And the education establishment has embraced the program: A number of public schools and public school systems have adopted the program or become partners in its implementation. …

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