A January 2022 report from the Louisiana Department of Education revealed less than half of Louisiana’s K-3rd grade students are reading on grade level. CFNLA data reveals 60% of children in Caddo Parish are not kindergarten ready when they enter school. As these trends persist, educational equity and student success continue to be a priority focus at CFNLA. In 2018, CFNLA set a goal to change the course of poverty for children through education. To achieve that goal, we developed the Spark Education Fund and the Early Childhood Education Fund.
CFNLA committed $1.25 million over 5 years to the Spark Education Fund to make grants to evidence-based programs that remove barriers to educational success faced by children in poverty. Communities in Schools (CIS), operated locally by Volunteers of America North Louisiana, has received the Spark Education grant since inception. CIS coordinators work one on one with children and families to address academic, behavioral, and truancy issues.
CIS, currently operating in 10 schools, connects children at risk of academic failure to critical educational and community-based resources based on their specific needs. CIS is a national model that has resulted in local students achieving higher GPAs and fewer absences and behavior referrals.
“The VOA Communities in Schools program showed promising outcomes in its first few years in Caddo Parish. In an unprecedented joint effort, CFNLA, Caddo Parish Schools, and the VOA committed to expand the program from 5 schools to 16 in just five years. By 2023, the CIS program will be available in 16 elementary, middle, and high schools in Caddo Parish. This could not have been achieved without collaboration.”
Research indicates long-term educational success correlates with how prepared a child is for kindergarten. In 2021, CFNLA increased community awareness about the importance of early learning and worked to expand access to quality early childhood education. With support from many philanthropic partners, CFNLA raised $1 million in donations and received a $1 million match from the state. This funding will provide scholarships for up to 200 Caddo Parish children ages 0-3 to attend Type III (independently owned) early childhood education centers. Scholarships are now being awarded. CFNLA is in its second year of fundraising for Caddo Parish and beginning its first year of fundraising for Bossier Parish.
The key to the success of both initiatives is independent evaluation. Both initiatives are being evaluated to ensure donor dollars are used in the most efficient and effective way possible.