We are proud to financially support many programs/partnerships through the Tuscaloosa City Schools and Tuscaloosa County School System, including:
Neighborhood Bridges is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that was launched in January 2017. The model for Neighborhood Bridges is to create a Gateway for Kindness utilizing technology and social media to advocate for children and families in need... and then engaging the community in filling those needs. Neighborhood Bridges is about kindness, speed, efficiency, and bridging all community resources to drive direct support in care to our neighbors.
Tuscaloosa City Bridges and Tuscaloosa County Bridges will engage the community in driving direct support and care to students and families in need! Convenient drop sites are provided for donors and needed items can be shipped by Amazon. Donors receive an email to document their charitable donations.
Our mission is – To Provide a Gateway for Kindness
The Tuscaloosa Education Foundation has partnered with Tuscaloosa City Schools and the Tuscaloosa County Schools Neighborhood Bridges Organizations in facilitating the startup of Neighborhood Bridges Tuscaloosa. The TEF Board is intricately involved with these wonderful programs and provides streamlined support in many ways. We are working for a community that values kindness and responsibility by being of service to our students in public education that are in need. Please show your kindness by joining both of our Neighborhood Bridges Communities by clicking on the link below and choosing both communities. You can also follow us on Facebook.
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READING ALLIES TUSCALOOSA
Reading Allies began in Tuscaloosa through a collaborative effort among the University of Alabama Honors College, the Tuscaloosa Rotary Club, and the Tuscaloosa City Schools. Envisioned by veteran educator Jeanne Burkhalter and curated by literacy interventionist and state reading leader Vicki Holt, Reading Allies is the ideal example of how community support and individualized curriculum will move the needle on student success.
With a vision to help students across the state meet 3rd-grade reading proficiency following the May 2019 announcement of the Alabama Literacy Act, Dr. Robert E. Witt, Dr. Liza Wilson, and Vicki Holt submitted a proposal for statewide implementation of Reading Allies to the University of Alabama System’s McMahon-Pleiad Prize Committee. The prize was announced in September 2019 and the Reading Allies initiative was established, co-chaired by Dr. Witt and UA System Chancellor Finis St. John. Vicki Holt was named director and Claire Stebbins, the former Engage Tuscaloosa Executive Director and UA Honors College graduate was named Assistant Director. The team has devoted years to refining the curriculum, building assessment components, selecting the highest quality books, designing original phonics games, writing and illustrating books, and rounding out a program that will serve as a best practice model for the state of Alabama.
Proving that individualization of lessons and high-quality enrichment leads to results, 81% of below-grade level readers met grade-level benchmarks after one year of Reading Allies programming in the 2018-2019 school year. Utilizing a 20-session program model, a skilled Reading Allies Specialist develops personalized lessons for students, taught by trained volunteer tutors. The volunteers go through comprehensive training where they learn literacy best practices and how to effectively work with a striving reader. A highly skilled Reading Allies Specialist and committed volunteers are the keys to the successful results of Reading Allies.
Moving into its fourth year, Reading Allies has worked in partnership to bring classes of students up to grade level in reading. Partnering with state agencies, private corporations, and non-profits, Reading Allies is in a strong position to adapt and refine programming once again to meet the ever-evolving needs of students, teachers, and school systems following the COVID-19 pandemic.
While students were learning remotely the Reading Allies collaborators spent the year dreaming of what Reading Allies could be for the Tuscaloosa community and building the infrastructure to support the program for the future. In early 2021 Reading Allies found its permanent home under the umbrella of the Tuscaloosa Education Foundation, giving it the structure and foundation for the ambitious goal of bringing classes of struggling readers to grade level by third grade.
Reading Allies returned to Martin Luther King Elementary School in June 2021 as part of the City Schools Summer Learning Program and is excited to return to MLK and The Alberta School for Performing Arts (TASPA) in the City School System and Holt Elementary and Matthews Elementary in the County School System this fall. The vision is to have a thriving Reading Allies Program in the 16 Elementary Schools identified as struggling schools in the two school systems by the fall of 2023. While ambitious it is attainable with the support of the Tuscaloosa community. It will take close to $1 million and 1,000 volunteers when fully operational in all 16 schools and an additional $400,000 annually to continue the program in the future. A small investment in the lives of children that will reap rewards for generations of future citizens.
SUMMER LEARNING ACADEMIES
Research indicates that summer learning loss happens to all students but has greater effects on students living in poverty. The participation in summer learning programs dramatically slows summer learning loss and these programs work better when students are given the opportunity for choice. Tuscaloosa City Schools are committed to changing the landscape of schooling to make summer learning a priority by significantly expanding summer offerings, increasing program effectiveness and outcomes, improving efficiency, prioritizing K-2 programing, and facilitating the development of a community-wide commitment to summer learning. In 2018, TCS students who attended summer learning programs experienced 9 times less summer learning loss in reading and 20 times less summer learning loss in math than their peers who did not attend. The Tuscaloosa Education Foundation is so excited to partner in this work and are committed to making summer central to learning.
STRINGS IN SCHOOLS
In addition to teaching the mastery of string instruments, the Strings in Schools program teaches students valuable personal lessons, including being on time for rehearsals, being dressed in uniform, being responsible for home practice and learning to respect everyone in the group. Special needs students and students with disciplinary problems have shown improved attitudes and motivation. Families have been enriched through having a young string player at home.
Alabama’s award winning First Class: Pre – Kindergarten Program is part of the Office of School Readiness and provides effective, high-quality early childhood experiences that prepare Alabama’s children for school success and lifelong learning.
The Office of School Readiness defines school readiness as a condition whereby children enter school with the following: an enthusiasm for learning, an ability to function in a social setting, age-appropriate communication and problem-solving skills, age-appropriate physical and emotional skills and optimal health.
Numerous studies have shown that students who have participated in high-quality pre-kindergarten program are less likely to repeat a grade, require remedial education, or be placed in special education; score higher on achievement tests; are more likely to graduate from high-school and go on to college; get higher paying salaries as adults; and are more likely to stay out of prison and off welfare.
The Tuscaloosa Education Foundation, with the leadership of the late Mr. Tom Joiner, was instrumental in bringing Pre-K to Tuscaloosa in an intentional way.
THE HOPE INSTITUTE
Tuscaloosa City and County Schools have 25 schools that are interested or participating in Hope Institute. Housed at Samford University, Hope Institute is the brainchild of Drayton Nabers, a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, and Liz Huntley, a lawyer and child advocate whose memoir, “More than a Bird” recounts overcoming a harrowing childhood to become a successful attorney and a member of Auburn University’s board of trustees. The Hope Institute Academy provides a place for teachers and administrators to connect with each other, learn how schools can contribute to student’s character development, and understand why good character is essential to their success in life.
Character.org has been certifying schools for 20+ years based on their implementation of The 11 Principles of Effective Character. In that time, more than 800 National Schools of Character, State Schools of Character, Districts of Character, Mexico Schools of Character and China Schools of Character have been certified.
The initial fee to participate in Hope Institute Academy is $1,500. The Tuscaloosa Education Foundation will be sponsoring schools as they progress through this process in the future. TEF will also provide sponsorship to schools from Tuscaloosa County or Tuscaloosa City advancing to become a State or National School of Character through character.org.
“Leaders are Readers” is a community-wide initiative to encourage students to make time for reading. Tuscaloosa City Schools, in partnership with Tuscaloosa Education Foundation, Cadence Bank, United Way, Rotary, and Reading Allies, will allow our children daily access to our civic, education, and community leaders through daily videos to be aired at 12 noon every day beginning July 6th through August 14th on the Leaders are Readers webpage, YouTube, and social media channels! Click to learn more.