The Charlotte Post Foundation (Foundation) was established in 1996 and focused initially on providing financial assistance to college-bound African American high school seniors. However, several years ago, it became more apparent that with a little re-direction, the Foundation could become a vehicle to help address more serious educational problems. Specifically, in 2007, the Foundation's Board of Directors became alarmed when they learned that almost 59% of the 2,500 students who dropped out of CMS high schools were African American. Equally alarming was a 2007 Friedman Foundation report which found that, in North Carolina, high school dropouts were twice as likely to be incarcerated as their peers who graduated. Further, US Department of Justice data indicated that a school dropout is more than eight times as likely to be in jail or prison as a high school graduate and nearly 20 times as likely as a college graduate.
In addition, dropouts are costly for the community. On average it costs over $25,000 per year to house one NC inmate. Medicaid costs and lost tax revenue for each NC high school dropout is another $2,500 per year. In comparison, it costs a little over $7,000 per year to educate a child in CMS. Further, high school dropouts also face a bleak economic future in that their annual median income tends to be more than 30% less than that of their high school graduate counterparts. As a result, high school dropouts are three times more likely to slip into poverty and their children are less likely to graduate themselves, thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Overall, in monetary terms alone, the Charlotte community can potentially save $22,737 per year for each CMS student who does not drop out, but instead graduates.
Based on the above statistics, the Foundation commissioned the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Institute for Social Capital (ISC) to conduct a study, in 2008, to further explore the reasons for scholastic under-performance among African American youth. The study showed that the majority of students who dropped out by ninth grade, entered the school system woefully behind with skill levels needed to be successful in their educational pursuit. In fact, throughout their academic efforts, these students consistently tested “Below Grade Proficiency Level” (at Level I or II) on Charlotte Mecklenburg School System’s End of Grade (EOG) tests for reading and mathematics. More specifically, the study revealed that, for the 786 African American students who repeated the ninth grade at least once, 78 percent scored below proficiency levels for third grade reading and mathematics. In addition, students who repeated the ninth grade were prime candidates for dropping out.
The Foundation further investigated the causes leading to this educational travesty and learned that a high percentage of the African American dropouts who were incarcerated were also illiterate. Surveying the landscape to find existing organizations addressing literacy, the Foundation’s Board found that programs existed; however, many had a limited scope and capacity which resulted in limited impact. Subsequently, The Foundation expanded its overall Mission and committed to focusing more comprehensively on systemic problems that impede educational progress for African American students in the region.
The Foundation’s primary intent is to remove any barriers impeding the academic success of Charlotte Post Scholars (Post Scholars). It aims to minimize the duplication of existing efforts while providing a more comprehensive approach to addressing the complex issues facing Post Scholars. Namely, the Foundation partners with existing community efforts to coordinate and implement programs focused on academic success and increasing the graduation rate. Examples of supplemental support include academic tutoring, parent workshops and support, peer-to-peer mentoring, and extra-curricular/cultural experiences.
Our Target/Focus Area & Programming Efforts
Based on results from the Foundation’s 2008 ISC study, the Foundation elected to intervene at a critical point in a student's learning cycle--prior to entry into third grade. In 2009, the Foundation selected Billingsville Elementary, located in the Grier Heights Neighborhood, as the initial site for its pilot efforts. Billingsville Elementary is a Title I school, and at the time of the pilot, was in its initial year of restructuring.The Foundation worked along with Billingsville administrators and staff to identify and recruit 38 second graders who were deemed most likely to fall below proficiency levels on the 3rd grade End-of-Grade (EOG) test. The Foundation adopted the students as Post Foundation Scholars and launched one component of the pilot program by enrolling the Scholars in the Billingsville site of the Seigle Avenue Partners Freedom School--a six-week, literacy-based summer learning program.
In 2010, a second cohort of eighteen rising 3rd graders was also identified and joined the existing group of Post Scholars. In addition, the Foundation partnered with Myers Park Presbyterian Church to sponsor one of Freedom School’s first after-school efforts in the Charlotte area. The effort was specifically focused on assisting students with preparing for the EOG tests. While some of the Scholars were participants in the Freedom School effort; others were enrolled in Supplemental Educational Services (SES) or other after-school alternatives.
Another cohort of rising 3rd graders at Billingsville was identified in 2011, and the Foundation formed a partnership with Queens University of Charlotte’s Teaching Fellows’ Program. The Teaching Fellows assisted Scholars with improving their literacy and math skills by providing in class and after school tutorial assistance. In addition, the Foundation expanded its efforts to include a second site at Westerly Hills Elementary. Forty students were enrolled in the after school program and six highly qualified teachers from Westerly Hills staffed the initiative (site). In addition, nine Teaching Fellows provided tutorial assistance for the program. The program was held for two-days per week for approximately 35 weeks. Staff at the school complimented the Foundation’s program noting primarily that it was the only after school initiative at the site which contained academic and tutoring components.
Also in 2011, the Foundation partnered with the Grier Heights Community Learning Center to provide a Saturday Academy program. After meeting with staff and determining the needs of the Center, the Foundation again reached out to our partners at Queens University of Charlotte to assist with the effort. Queens’ faculty and ten students majoring in education assisted thirty Scholars with academic enrichment activities. In addition, over fifteen students from Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) also provided tutorial assistance for the program. The Foundation also played a role in creating organizational and program structure for the Saturday initiative.