Montgomery County Public Schools launched a new partnership with Comcast today to recruit scores of new volunteers for its highly successful Ruth Rales Comcast Kids Reading Network tutoring program.
This new partnership with Comcast, valued at $1 million, kicks off National Volunteer Week in Montgomery County and provides MCPS with many new tools to recruit volunteers for the program, including 2,000 public service announcements annually, bill inserts, training materials, and more. MCPS announced the partnership at Beall Elementary School in Rockville following a morning tutoring session.
“This new partnership will help us recruit more volunteers, which means we can reach even more students with this extremely successful tutoring program,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. “This public-private partnership is an excellent example of the business community and the school system coming together to support one common goal--student success.”
Comcast joins the RFI Foundation as one of the program's main sponsors. MCPS was able to expand the program from 30 to 56 elementary schools in December thanks to a $270,000 three-year grant from Debby and Joshua B. Rales of the RFI Foundation in honor of Ruth Rales, the late mother of Joshua Rales.
The Reading Network, a one-on-one tutoring program, will help approximately 840 Grade 2 students in 56 high-poverty schools learn to read fluently. On average, students in the program have shown gains of at least one grade level in reading fluency and comprehension by program completion. Volunteers are critical to the program's success in helping second graders improve their reading skills. Volunteers can be parents, grandparents, community members, and even some students.
Comcast will produce and air the public service announcements extensively on 40 cable networks and feature the Reading Network on three Comcast Local Editions as part of the three-year $1 million partnership. In addition, Comcast will assist in producing materials for volunteer recruitment and training and will underwrite an annual celebration for students and tutors and provide appreciation gifts for volunteers.
“We all know that the key to success in school is a strong foundation in basic skills like reading. We are delighted to partner with MCPS and the RFI Foundation to do our part to promote strong reading skills among our second graders in Montgomery County,” said Craig A. Snedeker, area vice president and general manager for Comcast of Montgomery. “Comcast is a major supporter of literacy initiatives in Montgomery County. We firmly believe that promoting literacy among young people helps build the groundwork they need to get a quality education and grow to become the next generation of leaders in the county.”
The program's success is due, in part, to the quality of books and materials provided and to the ongoing training the tutors receive. Each tutorial session follows a scripted format so that tutors and students know what to expect and can move comfortably through each lesson. The progress made by students is monitored weekly with the assistance of school-based teachers who serve as program coordinators. The program is flexible and tutoring sessions can be scheduled before, during, or after school hours.
“I have watched this program up close and I am truly impressed with how well it works. Not only that, I know that the volunteers get as much, if not more, out of it as the kids. Every volunteer that I've spoken to, including my wife, cherishes this hour of their week,” said Joshua B. Rales, president of the RFI Foundation.
Additional collaborators in the initiative include the Montgomery County Council, which has provided $100,000 to recruit volunteers for the program, and the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services. Three nonprofit organizations, Interages, Inc.; George B. Thomas, Sr. Learning Academy, Inc.; and Passion for Learning, Inc., also will recruit volunteers to serve as reading tutors for this program.
National Volunteer Week honors citizens who share their time and talents to make a difference in communities across the nation. This year's theme, “Inspire by Example!,” sets the stage for local and national organizations not only to applaud the efforts of volunteers but also to encourage others to get involved with initiatives like the Ruth Rales Comcast Kids Reading Network to promote literacy and strengthen the community.
The Reading Network is the recipient of the Civic Star Award for Maryland from the American Association of School Administrators and Sodexho School Services.