Willow Oaks School

Last year, the Ravenwood Education Foundation launched the literacy intervention program in the Ravenwood School District, which identifies third to fifth grade students reading 1-1.5 years below grade level and provides them with intensive support.  Groups of four students cycle through six weeks of four-times-per-week instruction with a literacy Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA). As a result, in the 2018-2019 school year so far, students with this literacy intervention moved ahead of their peers by 50%.

Kimberley Yamashita (pictured top with student) has been at Willow Oaks School in Menlo Park for 14 years and took on the TOSA position 18 months ago. “I love classroom teaching,” she says, “but moving into this literacy specialist role has really allowed me to put my experience, training and skills to use by working intensively with students, as well as coaching teachers in a targeted and effective way.”

With three, soon to be four, young sons of her own, Kimberly is impressively calm and poised — and quite obviously delights in seeing her students’ progress. One such student is Alex (pictured top), an engaged 4th grader at Willow Oaks, and the youngest of six boys in his family. He admits he used to be bored trying to read and would only occasionally pick up a book.

Following a six week cycle of intensive small reading groups with Kimberly in the Fall — and support replicated in the classroom — Alex progressed from a beginning 3rd grade reading level to an end of 4th grade reading level. His new found joy in reading is evident, and he is proud of his progress and the material he can now access.

“Now that I’ve graduated from Mrs. Yamashita’s group, I read more and feel happier about books,” he says. “History books are my favorite!”

“I can’t see all the kids who need literacy intervention, so that is tough,” laments Yamashita. “The results are there, we just need more literacy specialists so we can see more students.”

To that end — funding more literacy specialists among other programs — the Ravenswood Education Foundation (REF) is hosting its 12th annual gala on Saturday, March 2, at 6:00 pm at the Four Seasons in East Palo Alto. Tickets are available online through Feb. 26.

“Each year, our gala raises a third of our annual program budget,” explains Renu Nanda, Executive Director of the Ravenswood Education Foundation, “so it is a key event where community members come together to celebrate and support the students of Ravenswood schools — and raise vital funds for programs.

“Along with regular and consistent ongoing initiatives in mental health, makerspaces, art, music, summer school, teacher development and more, one of REF’s key drives has been literacy. Last year we funded five specialist literacy teachers and we want to increase that to at least 10 this coming school year. The benefits are clear.”

Photos courtesy of Ravenswood Education Foundation

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