Just six years into its quest to help more Bartlesville students graduate from high school and ready them for life afterward, Bartlesville Education Promise has been nominated for statewide recognition for its good work.
BEP is one of 21 Oklahoma organizations selected as a finalist for the prestigious Oklahoma Nonprofit Excellence (ONE) Awards. The nonprofit was selected from nearly 19,000 organizations across the state. The winner will be announced April 24 at Tulsa’s Southern Hills Country Club.
Bartlesville Public Schools is grateful for the help BEP provides the district, including after-school tutoring, STEM leadership opportunities, instructional support for students experiencing trauma, and support for students during transitions from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school.
“BEP is a community group with the goals of improving the Bartlesville Public Schools’ third-grade reading scores and the high school graduation rate,” said BPS Superintendent Chuck McCauley. “The Bartlesville Education Promise vision and support are making a positive difference for all our students.”
The organization was established in 2015 after a number of civic leaders realized that Bartlesville graduation rates were declining, in part due to changing demographics.
More than half of BPS students are on free and reduced lunch, which means they come from low-income families. Another portion of children are English Language Learners, and a number of kids are homeless.
When civic leaders Martin Garber and Ginger Griffin understood these changes, they asked the district what kind of support it needed to meet these goals.
“Many of us became concerned with the falling graduation rates and how students were testing, as compared to international students,” Griffin said. “As a result, we started to review national trends, options to improve these results and studied what we could do to improve outcomes in Bartlesville.”
BEP narrowed its efforts to three goals: improve third-grade reading, ease the transition from middle school to high school and increase the high school graduation rate.
The group is run by 11 civic leader volunteers, raising private money to fill in the gaps left by the lack of state funding.
The primary focus is on the needs of struggling students, many of whom face multiple traumas. Along with after-school tutoring for high school and middle school students, BEP provides elementary school reading assistance.
“Now we help over 3,000 students a year, provide after-school tutoring at all nine Bartlesville schools and fund a strong third-grade tutoring program,” Griffin said, adding the organization has established virtual programs due to the pandemic to enhance learning.
Since the nonprofit began its work, Bartlesville’s third-grade reading test passing rate climbed to 99% from 85%, and the high school graduation rate has risen to 91% from 83%.
Despite the pandemic, the organization revved up its 2020-21 school year last summer with programs such as elementary school reading program that went virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, BEP partnered with Bartlesville Public Schools to purchase e-books for the district’s six elementary schools. They will be accessed through an app called Sora.
“All of our school librarians are excited that this new program is being implemented,” said Kathy Hixon, a librarian at Wayside Elementary School. “This program will allow us to continue to provide age-appropriate books for our students so that they can continue to learn while at home.”
Originally written by Kim Archer, Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise