LUTCHER — A federal grant program targeting struggling students in St. James Parish has brought about academic improvements and introduced children to activities they might not otherwise join, a school district official said.
Rhonda Lee, the parish schools accountability supervisor, told the School Board on Tuesday the H.O.P.E. 21st Century Community Learning Center grant enhances academic achievement in language arts and math through enrichment activities.
H.O.P.E. stands for “Helping Our People Excel,” and addresses students who have scored below benchmark levels on standardized testing, Lee said.
“Those are the students who may not ever think they have hope,” she said.
The grant partners with the LSU Ag Center’s 4-H Club and includes membership in the club, Lee said.
Some of the activities include field trips and monthly topics on issues such as bullying, recycling and health and nutrition, Lee said.
The three-year grant was awarded to the school system in May 2013 and runs until June 2016, Lee said. Each year, the grant provides $639,000 for the programs.
Most of the grant money is spent on teachers and bus transportation to and from the programs, Lee said.
Nearly 900 students participated in the H.O.P.E. program last school year with more than half of these students spending 30 or more days in the program.
Lee compared LEAP test results from 2013 to 2014 from these 496 students and saw 69 percent of scores on the test’s language arts section either remain the same or show “positive growth,” she said.
Seventy-seven percent of scores on the test’s math section remained the same or showed positive growth, Lee said.
LSU Ag Center agent Kenneth Guidry, who works with youth across the parish, encouraged the School Board to consider allowing more time during the school day for 4-H Club members to meet so students with after-school activities could participate.
Guidry said studies have shown that 4-H members are four times more likely to make contributions to their communities, perform better in school and are more motivated to help others.