You may have heard a lot about the documentary that points out the deficiencies of education in our country. Racine, too, is in educational crisis.
Just last month, the U.S. Census Bureau released figures showing that one-third of all Racine children live in poverty. Academic achievement - the key to the future for them and for our community - eludes the majority of these children.
Just look at last year's Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam scores - one-third of this population cannot read at grade level, one-half cannot perform grade-level math and more than one-half do not have proficient language arts skills. Only six of 10 will graduate. Of those, most are not ready for any postsecondary education. Yet, as this economy has shown, education is the key to future self- sustainability.
While some people are waiting for Superman, SOAR is not. This problem is too big for one person or one public school system to fix. Racine needs a strong continuum of quality educational institutions that are accessible to all children, regardless of their family's economic ability to pay for it.
With sheer determination, SOAR has marshaled a host of collaborators to transform educational opportunity here. We invite you to join us in this effort.
In one short year, SOAR has already shown tremendous progress and effect. SOAR has built a network of 11 private schools committed to better serving less advantaged students. Last year, our first, 10 students attended three schools, collectively maintaining a B- grade-point average and a 95 percent attendance rate. Ninety children applied to be part of the program when we opened applications in February. To date, SOAR has 13 children attending four schools, with 77 more on our waiting list. A1113 students have mentors, as do others on our waiting list.
While our scholarship support might be small in this startup phase, our assistance to our partners is huge. Through intensive collaboration, SOAR has launched school counseling, professional development and career development programs for all 11 partner schools, effectively increasing the quality of education for more than 2,000 children.
Last month, 20 teachers from our partner schools gathered to learn about ways to prevent bullying in their classrooms and their schools and how to establish positive, safer learning environments. Naturally, this can't be accomplished in one morning of discussion. But it is a start. Along with its partners at Mount Mary College and Marquette University, SOAR is helping teachers and administrators manage the growing challenges that interfere with daily instruction. Equipping SOAR participating schools with tools to assist them is one of our goals.
Collaborations are key
SOAR's mission is to provide opportunities for excellent education through growing resources and support for our partner schools and by awarding scholarships to families with limited financial resources in the Greater Racine Area.
Working with our school partners to help them build their capacity to serve an expanding population of students in poverty is an essential component of our work. For that reason, we are collaborating with area universities to prepare a special graduate curriculum for teachers that will enhance their ability to teach English language learners in their classrooms.
There is a growing population of students whose primary language is not English. These are students gifted with potential and who have unique perspectives and experiences to share with their classmates. They are an asset to all of us and broaden our knowledge of the world. But they may need some alternative methods of instruction in order to help them reach their potential. SOAR will assist the schools in exploring these new avenues of learning that will help all students in the classroom.
Racine is in crisis. But slowly SOAR is making a difference by extending its reach to children who otherwise would not have the opportunity for a quality education. We are not waiting for Superman. We are learning to be the Super Heroes. Please join us.
SOAR is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that can be reached at P.O. Box 1782, Racine WI 53401; (262) 498- 9425; email@example.com. SOAR schools are: John Paul II Academy, St. Edward School, St. John's Lutheran School, St. Joseph School, St. Lucy School, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran School, Trinity Lutheran School, Wisconsin Lutheran School, St. Catherine's High School, Racine Lutheran High School and Shoreland Lutheran High School.