As Christians, we're called not just to do charity work, but also to do the justice work necessary so that our societies no longer need charity work.
In Broward county, in South Florida, an ecumenical group has been meeting the past few years to demand justice from our local leaders. Some years we've worked on housing issues, some years dental issues, and so on. We make real changes.
This year, we're meeting with the superintendent of schools to demand a better reading curriculum, and we're also meeting with city and county leaders to demand that county contracts go to local and small businesses.
Join us tonight at the War Memorial Auditorium at 800 Northeast 8th St. in Fort Lauderdale. Parking is free, unlike with other events there. Registration begins at 6:45 p.m., and the call to order is at 7:30 p.m.
If you're worried you'll have to sit alone because you won't know anyone, come join the Trinity Lutheran Church group. Or sit with people you don't know and make new friends.
That's the abridged version of what we're doing. For more details, read on; one of our congregation's BOLD Justice leaders explains:
There is an instructional method called direct instruction (reading mastery) that has been proven to show significant improvement in reading levels and overall student performance in schools using this method. This has been demonstrated in other urban school districts such as Houston and Baltimore. In Baltimore, first graders went from a mean national percentile in reading of 54.5 to an 82. In Houston, where the method has been used for over 20 years, 86 percent of all third grade kids were meeting or exceeding the state standards in reading in 2010, and this is in a school where more than 90 percent of kids qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Direct instruction had been used in some Broward Schools many years ago, and it reportedly raised student performance significantly, but the methods were discarded when a new administration took charge of the schools.
Trinity's Justice leadership saw a 60 Minutes segment that portrayed the use of direct instruction in Houston, and it was quite compelling. In addition, a 2009 synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement found that direct instruction was the only method of instruction that consistently showed strong positive effects with students of different ability levels and ages and with different subject matter. This was one of a number of studies cited that found direct instruction to be an effective teaching method.
72 percent of Broward County elementary schools are not meeting state standards. Of these, there are 28 at the lowest end of the scale in which less than 55 percent of their third graders are reading at grade level.
So here is the proposed solution to ensure that all students are reading at grad level by the time they leave third grade:
Since research has shown that the direct instruction (reading mastery) program, when implemented properly with adequate training and support for teachers, is the most effedctive educational strategy in underperforming schools, BOLD Justice is asking Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie to implement a direct instruction pilot project in 5 of the 28 lowest performing elementary schools. Superintendent Runcie has met at least twice with representatives from BOLD Justice and has agreed to attend on Thursday to respond to the BOLD Justice request.
A powerful turnout will send an important message to Superintendent Runcie and other county leaders that we want this pilot project implemented! That we are tired of failure. That we want students who read to learn, succeed, and graduate and who do not fail to graduate high school because early reading struggles could not be overcome.
In turn, students will graduate rather than drop out. And they will continue on to further education or training or be ready to perform well in first-time jobs.
And that brings me to the second thing that BOLD Justice is seeking on Thursday. There are about 84,000 people in Broward County looking for jobs, and there are some major county contracts projected to create new jobs, many of them permanent. These include county courthouse expansion, possible expansion of Port Everglades, and numerous other projects. One of the things the county considers in determining who gets these contracts is to make sure that small businesses get their fair share of the contracts. The county aims to give 25 percent of all contracts to small businesses. However, in 2011, less than 11 percent of county contracts went to small businesses. In addition, the county didn't track the amount of jobs that were created by these projects, nor did they make job creation a major consideration when awarding contracts.
BOLD Justice met with leaders and experts on economic development in Broward County, and determined that greater emphasis needs to be placed on considering small businesses and job creation when awarding county contracts. We believe that what BOLD Justice is pushing county leaders to do is to reach their own goal of awarding 25 percent of all contracts to small business, to emphasize job creation, and to make sure that a significant percentage of those new jobs created go to Broward County residents. I'm not sure what Broward County officials may be on hand to hear and respond to these requests on Thursday.
So, again, if people wish to walk together humbly with our God in pursuit of justice for those who are going without good educational and job opportunities, they should join us at the BOLD Justice Nehemiah Action this Thursday, April 26, at the War Memorial Auditorium. Registration begins at 6:45 p.m., and the call to order is at 7:30 p.m.
War Memorial Auditorium is located at 800 Northeast 8th St. in Fort Lauderdale. From Sunrise Blvd., go south on US 1/Federal Highway, then it is a short distance to NE 8th Street. Turn east on NE 8th St. and it will lead straight to the site. If coming from the south on US 1, cross Broward Blvd. and continue about 9 blocks to NE 8th St., where you will turn east (right) and go straight ahead to War Memorial Auditorium. Parking is free, but please try to arrive early.