Jennifer Mak has been the Principal at 15th St School (at Mesa St) in San Pedro for 8 years. (Her 3 children are all in college now, one in medical school, so she is feeling that “empty nest” syndrome.) Her students are from a broken community, with single parents, stress, 87% poverty, and many English-language learners. Her school’s scores for grades 2-5 on the Proficient & Advanced English assessment were 34% in 2007-8, but increased to 59% by 2012, and it is now a California Gold Ribbon School.

She accomplished these improvements with the California Goals Model Program “Ready, Set, Read” starting in 2009. This was based on a program developed at Columbia University Teachers College, in which each student reads books at his/her chosen level of comfort. Teachers lead small groups at each level, and students’ reading skills are reassessed after 4-6 weeks. The School’s Reading Lab has sections of books available and identified for each level.

It’s important to start early — 2nd grade is already too late for optimal results. There are monthly Parent Workshops to help parents learn how to help their children at home, because many parents are nearly illiterate themselves. Volunteers help with reading instruction, and fiscal support is obtained from outside sources including the San Pedro & Palos Verdes Sunset Rotary Clubs. A running record is kept of each student to assess growth over time and evaluate the effectiveness of individual learning. Struggling students are identified, and they are assessed on fluency, ability to retell what they read, and comprehension, not just how fast they can read. Monthly assessments and goals are assessed at the end of the school year for each grade level.

They have enough books for reading now, but they still need technology, especially laptop computers of which the school has only one. They would welcome donations of technology as well as financial assistance.