Outstanding School Support Foundation awarded by Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has honored a comprehensive academic support program for at-risk students and three successful fundraising programs as recipients of its 2017 Outstanding Program Awards for Local Education Foundations.

The awards, which recognize innovative programs sponsored or administered by public school foundations in Oklahoma, were presented at the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Fall Forum for Local Education Foundations held recently in Norman. Receiving plaques and monetary awards of $1,000 each were the Education Promise Program sponsored by Bartlesville Education Promise, Trojan 20 sponsored by the Jenks Public Schools Foundation, the Black & Gold Gala sponsored by the Inola Educational Enrichment Foundation and the Fashion Show Fundraiser presented by the Wagoner Education Foundation Inc.

“We honor these programs for their creativity and the positive impact they have in supporting academic excellence in their communities,” said Donna Alexander, director of Local Education Foundation Outreach for the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. “In addition, we recognize these innovative programs at our Fall Forum so that other school foundations might use these ideas in their own local communities.”

To help at-risk students successfully graduate and prepare for college and the work force, the Bartlesville Education Promise launched the Education Promise Program, a multipart initiative that includes reading support for struggling elementary students; after-school tutoring for high school students; a summer academy to help students transition to a new school; ACT/PSAT test prep; and camps in Advanced Placement readiness, art and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The program, which began in the 2015-16 school year, is sponsored by Bartlesville Education Promise, a foundation created in 2015 to support local schools.

“While Bartlesville has a wonderful school system, the community’s demographics have been changing,” said Martin Garber Jr., chairman of Bartlesville Education Promise, noting that about 50 percent of Bartlesville students qualify for free-and-reduced-lunch, 300 are deficient in English language capability and more than 400 are classified as homeless. “As a result, we are beginning to see a declining graduation rate. A principal objective of the Education Promise Program is to help improve the percentage of students that graduate.”

In the 2015-16 school year, the foundation raised approximately $45,000 with support from individuals, businesses and foundations to fund activities benefiting more than 2,000 students. The program provided free books for at-risk elementary readers to take home and share with their families or a reading volunteer. At the high school level, the program offered teacher-led tutoring in English, math and science to 957 students, most of whom showed improvement in their grades after tutoring.

Transition camps were provided for 220 students going into middle school and high school to help reduce student stress and prepare students for the expectations of their new learning environment. The foundation partnered with the Lowe Family Foundation to present STEM camps serving 145 students. Classes addressed robotics, nursing, computers and had several guest speakers who spoke about STEM careers. In addition, six-week summer art camps staffed by district art teachers were held at the Boys and Girls Club and the Teen Center and culminated in a student art show.

In 2016-17, the foundation doubled the program’s budget to $90,000 and expanded in-school tutoring at the elementary and secondary levels, which included providing after-school transportation. The foundation also initiated a campaign to recruit and train community volunteers to work with students.

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Nonprofit Gives Schools Extra Help

Members of Bartlesville Education Promise are continuing to build on the progress they’ve already made by expanding programs designed for students struggling in school.

For the 2017-18 school year, the nonprofit is providing funds for additional after-school tutoring in the district’s elementary schools, explained BEP chairman Martin Garber.

“We are committed in this area and basically doubled the funding we’re providing to the elementary schools for this year. They’re going to be tutoring all year,” he said.

BEP was formed in 2015, when the group of education supporters teamed up with Bartlesville public school officials to develop innovative ways to help at-risk youth live up to their potential and have a successful future.

The organization’s range of assistance has grown to include reading support for elementary students, after-school tutoring, a summer academy to help students transition to a new school, ACT/PSAT test preparation, and camps in Advanced Placement readiness, art and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

“What we’re concerned with is developing programs that raise the outcomes of the entire student body, with particular focus on the at-risk kids and helping them to graduate,” said Garber. “The community recognizes our mission and the progress is happening because of them.”

One of the major programs BEP focuses on is third-grade reading, and for the past two years it has provided take home books to each of the elementary schools.

BEP provides books for 20 percent of all elementary students to take home, and teachers are seeing good results among students who have difficulty in acquiring requisite readings skills.

“This gives them the opportunity to read, learn and explore more while in the comfort of their own home,” Jacquelyn Smith, first-grade teacher at Ranch Heights School, reported in a BEP feedback form.

“Hopefully we don’t have any kid that is held back because of reading, because that’s traumatic to the kid obviously and it’s very traumatic to the family as well,” said Garber. “Our goal is to make sure that every kid can read by the third grade, otherwise they’re going to be struggling their entire life.”

High school students who have difficulty grasping math and English can get assistance from qualified tutors three times a week now, and BEP also provides transportation home.

According to Ginger Griffin, BEP vice chairman, 85 percent of high school students who attended at least half of the tutoring sessions passed core classes.

Teachers also reported seeing growth in vocabulary and comprehension, said Griffin, and during the 2016-17 school year more than 1,000 middle school students and 600 Bartlesville High School students benefited from after-school tutoring.

Research shows that a significant challenge for some students is mastering the transition from elementary school to middle school and from middle school to high school, said Griffin.

“The migration causes some of the students to be fearful,” he said, noting that the transition from eight grade to high school can be particularly daunting..

Thanks to BEP-sponsored transition camps over the summer months, students gained an exposure to their new school, got informed about school programs and mastered their locker combinations. Students also learned about career paths related to their educational interests.

Griffin said that the summer transition camps help keep students minds engaged and productive. ACT/PSAT and AP Readiness was also was provided along with art, science and STEM camps.

“There’s a lot of countries who have year-round school and obviously when you have that, their test scores are going to be a lot better,” added Garber. “There’s a three month-period when families don’t concentrate on learning here, and part of our effort was to give our students an opportunity to learn in the summer if they’re so inclined.”

More than 70 qualified teachers from Bartlesville schools and Tri County Technology Center led the summer programs, and Garber noted that they were paid on an hourly basis with benefits.

Budget cuts to the Bartlesville Public School District, coupled with concerns about the increase of children at risk, Griffin believes that society “must step in” and help support the segment of students who are homeless, live in poverty, single-parent homes, abusive households or non-English speaking homes.

“Half the student body is getting free and reduced lunches. We’re concerned about the 25-30 most vulnerable kids in each graduating class, and we’re focusing on those, but we’re not forgetting that out of the 400 in a senior class, 200 of them have problems and obstacles they’re dealing with,” said Griffin. “These kids have obstacles that we need to help them with.”

Volunteers with BEP studied the total “needs” for volunteers last year and cataloged 150 opportunities. The group was successful in encouraging 100 of the positions to be filled and Griffin and Garber hope to have more on board this coming school year.

“All nine schools need extra help. Given the cutbacks the schools have had in all areas, they need many kinds of volunteers. All of the schools need library help, putting books in, crossing guards, monitors for the playground,” said Garber.

“The needs are compelling given the amount of cuts that have not only impacted the teachers but the support staff.”

Mission and Focused Programs

The mission of Bartlesville Education Promise is to guide our community towards assuming greater shared ownership with Bartlesville Public Schools.  for improved educational outcomes for all students of our schools, with special focus on improving graduate rates and readiness for higher education, technical school or full-time employment. Working with the schools, this involves special attention in identifying and helping students who are struggling and are at risk of dropping out of school before graduation.  Based on work with the schools, BEP helps identify unmet needs, develops appropriate programs and funds these with contributions from individuals, corporations, civic clubs and foundations.

Consistent with this Mission , Bartlesville Education Promise focuses  on four major programs to improve  long term improvements in terms of student outcomes for all students with special focus on students at risk of not graduating from high school.

 Third Grade Reading.  The Oklahoma legislature, in recognition of the need for lifetime  competence in reading, has mandated that there will no longer be social promotions of students beyond the third grade if they do not demonstrate adequate reading skills.  For the past two years, BEP has provided take home books to each of the elementary schools as too many families have no books at home and can’t help with reading at home.  Starting in 2016, BEP has additionally established high priority for after school tutoring for young students who are struggling most in acquiring the requisite reading skills.  At the schools’ request we are adding funds for additional after school tutoring in our primary schools in 2017-18.

2.  After school professional tutoring.   Through after school tutoring BEP provides the opportunity to all students to enhance their learning, with special focus on identifying and including students who are at risk of not graduating.  During the 2016-17 school year more that 1000 middle school students and 600 BHS students availed themselves of the opportunity to benefit from after schools tutoring, frequently with their own classroom teacher.

3. Provide Transition Summer Camps.  Research concludes that difficulty for students in adjusting to transfers from grade school to middle school and from middle school to high school is one of the biggest obstacles for all students to master.  BEP provides strong Transition Camps to help students master these critical steps. As an example, 20 of 21 ninth grade at risk kids, through extra help from tutoring, passed their required courses and have moved on to the 10th grade.

4. Make summer months productive for Bartlesville students. BEP provides a rich and challenging menu of summer camps that address the need for expanding student horizons  to take more STEM and other challenging subjects that are predicted to be  the foundation for many jobs in the future.  The summer camps also serve the purpose of keeping students involved in continuous learning during the otherwise down summer months.

Students Benefit at Bartlesville High School Summer Camps

Several different camps were held in the summer of 2017 for students at Bartlesville High School. One of the camps was funded by the local group Bartlesville Education Promise, offering several Summer Institute courses for almost fifty students. The school’s Parent Support Group funded an afternoon camp for incoming freshmen.

Over two hundred incoming freshmen attended Bruin Camp on the afternoon of August 4, 2017 at Bartlesville High School’s Freshman Academy.  The event featured a scavenger hunt, school spirit session, and panel discussion with former BHS students to help the students with the transition from middle school to high school. The students were treated to Jared Frozen Custard after the event. Many parents chose to stay so that their student could check out a Chromebook to use at school and at home. That flood of students for the new checkout process dragged it out for some time, but in the end over 100 very patient parents and students left the building with a Chromebook in a nice Bruin case in an early start for the district’s bond-funded Student Computing Initiative.

Another program was the BHS Summer Institute, with several different courses offered for only a $10 registration fee. The program was made possible by the support of Bartlesville Education Promise, a nonprofit group of concerned citizens who want to see Bartlesville schoolchildren continue to succeed. Donations to the group are accepted through the Bartlesville Community Foundation. Superintendent of Schools Chuck McCauley has said Bartlesville Education Promise offers represents the spirit of the community in helping students succeed.

High School Fundamentals served 18 incoming freshmen from July 10-28. Freshman Academy teachers Amanda Hancock, Diana Johnson, Theresa Keller, and Bill McQueen taught foundation skills for successful organization and communication to the incoming high schoolers.

ACT Test Prep was offered June 5-8 by BHS faculty members Warren Neff and Jen Ward. It helped two dozen students prepare for the ACT assessment. There were two days focusing on English/Reading and two days focusing on Math. Students who attended were encouraged to register for the ACT given that week.

From July 10-21 BHS teacher Mandy Lumbley offered Prep for Accelerated English – Path to AP, guiding seven students through their summer reading project via class discussion, notes, and independent work time. In addition, the course provided a foundation in the skills for successful analysis, argument, annotation, and synthesis of text in all major genres.

The district appreciates the support of its staff members, parents, and community partners in providing students with these summer learning opportunities.

Camps available for BPS students

Bartlesville Public School students will have multiple opportunities to learn in fun and engaging ways this summer with a collaborative effort between several different organizations.

Bartlesville Education Promise, a nonprofit organization set up to improve educational opportunities and graduation rates for Bartlesville students, spearheaded the summer camps with the help of Bartlesville Public Schools, Tri County Tech and the Barry W. Lowe and Karen Sue Lowe Foundation.

Additional financial support is provided by Phillips 66, ConocoPhillips, Chevron Phillips Chemical, ABB and the Parson Foundation.

The opportunities for students are being provided at low cost to students, and some students could be eligible for scholarships for the summer programs.

Bartlesville Education Promise Chairman Martin Garber said the summer camps are a great way for Bartlesville students to learn, while still having fun.

“We want to provide these camps to benefit the students of Bartlesville, no matter their background,” he said. “Many of our programs are geared for those students who are most at-risk for not completing their education. We want to show them learning can be productive and fun at the same time.”

The summer camps kick off June 5, with an ACT Test Prep class at Bartlesville High School for incoming freshmen and sophomores. On the same day, a special science, technology, engineering and math camp for seventh grade through ninth grade will be held at Tri County Tech.

Kerensa Kester, Tri County Tech’s chief instructional officer, said the program has been expanded this year from three topics of interest to six topics — electronics, engineering, robotics, “computer geek” to explore careers in computer science, a chef camp for culinary interests, and “lab rats” to learn about laboratory sciences.

“These are exciting and fun hands-on camps for kids to learn all about the field of STEM,” Kester said. “We are so thankful for the partnership with Bartlesville Education Promise, Bartlesville Public Schools and the Lowe Foundation to bring these summer camps to Tri County. Without these partnerships, students in Bartlesville would have to travel far away from home to get this experience. We are excited about the expansion from last year to offer more programs for the students.”

The first STEM camps at Tri County Tech will be immediately followed by another camp for younger students from June 12-16. Kester said the cost to attend either camp is $245. For students who have financial concerns, scholarships for the STEM camps are available thanks to the Lowe Foundation.

To apply for scholarship opportunities, contact counselors at Bartlesville High School, Madison Middle School or Central Middle School. The deadline for registration, for either a scholarship or for for students able to afford the full cost, is May 15.

For Bartlesville Public Schools’ Summer Institute, which includes the ACT Test Prep and six other programs throughout the summer, the cost is only $10 for registration for each camp. Registration closes on May 25.

Programs include a summer arts camp in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Bartlesville, Prep for Accelerated English, Fundamentals of Composition for writing skills, a High School Fundamentals camp for incoming freshmen, and transition camps at Bartlesville’s two middle schools for incoming sixth-graders.

Bartlesville High School principal LaDonna Chancellor said the participants in the courses from last year have shown an increased engagement in school.

“These students continue to excel and learn about what school life is all about,” she said. “We monitored the students who participated in last year’s camps throughout the school year and we have see so many improvements. I’ve had students tell me if it weren’t for the summer institute, they may be on a different path that would not be as successful. This is such a great program, and thanks to Bartlesville Education Promise and the support of the community, these camps are making a huge difference.”

Bartlesville Education Promise vice chairman Ginger Griffin said the whole point of the organization and the summer camps is to help Bartlesville students on a path to success.

“We are proud to step up and help solve the problems that arise from at-risk students,” Griffin said. “We want these students to be successful. A lot of the time, they don’t have the support from a good family environment. We want to be able to help in whatever way we can to help these kids to be successful.”

For more information about the Summer Institutes at Bartlesville Public Schools, contact Bartlesville counselors at BHS, Central or Madison.

The activities of Bartlesville Education Promise are funded by individuals, local and national businesses and foundations. Tax deductible donations can be made through the Bartlesville Community Foundation with a memo for BEP to P.O. Box 2323, Bartlesville, OK 74005.

BEP Expands Programs

The Board of Directors of the Bartlesville Education Promise announced the expansion of the school programs in association with the Bartlesville Public Schools.   For the in-school programs for 2016-17 additional projects will be added starting with this school year.

Similar to 2015-16, funds will be provided for elementary schools to purchase books so that struggling students can take home reading books. The 2015-16 project provided take home books for at least 20% of primary students. Parents are also encouraged to help their student practice their reading. This year, in addition to purchasing books for elementary schools, additional funds are being provided for after school tutoring and transportation for third-grade students. Tutoring will be provided in reading and math. Schedules for tutoring will be determined by each elementary school based upon availability of teachers.

New pilot programs are being funded to encourage parental involvement at two schools. These programs, which will be funded at Madison Middle School and Wilson Elementary School, will encourage parent involvement, in support of education and safety.

After school tutoring will be initiated at the two Middle Schools by teachers in math and reading. This tutoring will be held two days a week, with transportation home after the tutoring to be provided.

Tutoring at the Bartlesville High School will continue for the upcoming year, and will be expanded to three days a week. Last year, during five months of the program, students took advantage of 957 tutoring sessions. This year tutoring will continue in Algebra 1, Geometry, English, and Science. Transportation will continue to be provided for those students taking advantage of the tutoring.

In her presentation to the Bartlesville Education Promise Board, LaDonna Chancellor, BPS Coordinator for the programs and Principal at Bartlesville High School, said she and all the staff that were involved with both the in-school and summer programs sponsored by BEP “could not be happier with the outcome of the project. With the 976 tutoring sessions at the high school, we saw marked improvement in the students that took advantage of these sessions.” Many of these students could be classified as “at risk” of not keeping up with their studies.

BEP also funded and supported a very successful Summer Academy. Summer transition camps were held for over 230 students that were going from elementary schools to middle schools and from the middle schools to the high school. These students learned study habits, leadership skills, mixed with other students who would attend their schools next year, met teachers and explored the facilities in their new schools.  Chancellor said, “Easing transitions smoothes the path and helps prepare the students for success at a new and more challenging level of learning.”

Other BEP summer camps included the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math camps (STEM), facilitated through partnering with TriCounty Tech, Bartlesville Public School District, and the Lowe Family Young Scholars. These were attended by 145 students.  Lowe Family Young Scholars provided scholarships for 54 of the students.

Test prep for ACT/PSAT and AP Readiness attracted another 34 students, and over 350 students participated in an Arts Camp in association with the Boys and Girls Club and Teen Center where BPS teachers helped instruct and prepare students for a public showing of their work at the Bartlesville Community Center. An additional 240 students took advantage of a science camp and 100 students were taken to the Oklahoma Aquarium to learn about educational issues dealing with the ocean and Oklahoma waters.

Chancellor went on to state, “the summer programs gave the students an early look at many of the educational opportunities they will encounter during the coming year.” Many of these summer programs will be continued in 2017, and specific programs will be announced by January 2017.

New Partnerships

The Bartlesville Education Promise announced several new partnerships.  ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66 have joined the Bartlesville Education Promise and are supporting the seven-part program to improve graduation rates in Bartlesville.  These programs include yearlong tutoring in Algebra, geometry, English and science at the High School two days a week, and providing reading books for struggling students at all elementary schools.  These books are designed for each student to improve reading skills and the books can be taken home so that parents can assist in reading skills.  The program also includes Summer Academies in transition learning from the 5th to 6th grade and 8th to 9thgrade, Test Prep for ACT, STEM camps, Art Camps, and AP camps.

 The Schmoldt Family Foundation has also joined as a partner. Their focus will be funding for Math and Science camps and Art camps directed towards At Risk students.

Academic programs hope to curtail brain drain

Bartlesville schoolchildren have a chance to get ahead this summer as Bartlesville Education Promise plans several events to keep kids engaged over the summer break.

Vanessa Drummond, board member of Bartlesville Education Promise, said this is a way for students to keep involved over the summer break, especially after the 2013 bond issue for Bartlesville Public Schools was passed.

“Part of the reasoning behind the bond issue that recreated BHS into the four-year school that we see here, is that research shows that struggling students lose ground with every transition from one school to another,” Drummond said. “The Bartlesville Education Promise transition summer camps will address the same issue. We want to provide support for more kids to easily make the transition from elementary to middle school and then again from middle school to high school.”

Additionally, Bartlesville Education Promise will be offering many classes to all Bartlesville students over the summer.

“We will have classes available to Bartlesville Public School students this summer, including Introduction to Acting, Art ACT test preparation and preparation to Accelerated English, a path to Advanced Placement courses in high school,” Drummond said. ” Also, Tri County Tech will be offering a technology STEM camp (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) for both middle school and high school students. They will also offer classes for the health industry and computer technology. Each of these camps will seek to keep our students academically involved during the summer, so that they will not fall back in knowledge over those three months and give them information about what kind of jobs are out there when they graduate.”

Most of what Bartlesville Education Promise is trying to address is the changing demographics in Bartlesville as well as the$1.3 billion budget crisis at the state level that is impacting public education.

“Bartlesville students compete academically at the highest levels in our state. We really have a great school system,” Drummond said. “However, our demographics have been changing and we have a lot of children in our schools who face numerous challenges to academic success and graduation.”

Drummond pointed out there are approximately 50 percent of students in Bartlesville who qualify for free or reduced lunches. Also, approximately 300 students are deficient in English skills and over 400 students across the district are homeless.

“Their parents are often unavailable or unable to help them academically,” Drummond said. “These are the kids that need our help.”

Bartlesville Education Promise is a nonprofit group of concerned citizens who want to see Bartlesville schoolchildren continue to succeed. Donations are accepted through the Bartlesville Community Foundation. Incoming Superintendent of Schools Chuck McCauley said what Bartlesville Education Promise is offering represents the spirit of the community to help students who are struggling the most.

“The folks behind this project are amazing,” McCauley said. “In the midst of really tough times facing our most struggling students with state budget cuts, we have a group of Bartlesville citizens stepping up to make a difference. I couldn’t be more pleased to see the continuing community spirit with this group, and the help from Bartlesville Education Promise continues the excellence we have here at the Bartlesville Public School District.”