Freedom School expanding as it returns for second year in Cedar Rapids

Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 5:46 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Tanager Place is expanding its Freedom Schools program after seeing significant improvements in students through summer learning. The six week long program for students going into sixth, seventh and eighth grades is held at McKinley Middle School in Cedar Rapids.

Children’s Defense Fund (CFD) Freedom Schools is a free, six-week summer program meant to improve literacy. Last year, the program allowed for 30 students. This summer, they are doubling that number to offer the program to 60 students. This year, the program offered by Tanager Place is funded by Cedar Rapids Community School District COVID-19 relief funds, as well as private grants, foundations and donations.

Summer break usually means a decline in reading skills from spring to fall, and the pandemic has made that loss even greater in the last two years.

The Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools says 84% of children enrolled in Freedom Schools avoid summer learning loss. Crystal Hall, Director of Community Based and Prevention Services for Tanager Place, says that success was reflected in Tanager Place’s Freedom School last summer. Hall says none of their students experienced a decrease in reading skills over the summer. “In fact was actually a pretty significant increase. Those kids who participated made up a lot of ground. And hopefully what that does then is have a ripple effect, so when their reading scores hold steady and improve then we can see additional academic improvement across the board,” says Hall.

The program also works to help students have better self-esteem and socio-emotional skills. Teachers work with the students to help them build up their literacy knowledge, and learn how they can use their skills to make a difference in their community.

The summer 2022 Freedom School at McKinley Middle School will run June 13th-July 22nd, Monday – Friday 8:30am-3pm. Applications are open until May 6th.

Families interested in applying, or anyone interested in teaching for program can find more information here.

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