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M&T Funding New Literacy Project on West Side

Posted: September 2, 2015

Beginning this fall, approximately 20 Buffalo State education majors will gain valuable experience working with Buffalo schoolchildren on literacy skills while also earning a paycheck, thanks to a new initiative funded by M&T Bank.

The Literacy Tutoring Initiative—a partnership among Buffalo State’s Center for Excellence in Urban and Rural Education (CEURE), International School 45, M&T Bank, and the West Side Promise Neighborhood Initiative (WSPN)—pairs Buffalo State students with children enrolled in a four-day-a-week afterschool program. It is free to the participants from School 45, many of whom are immigrants and refugees.

The goal is two-fold: to provide elementary school students with intensive and diagnostic individualized instruction to boost literacy skills and to provide Buffalo State education majors with clinically rich, intensive professional development opportunities, according to Gina Pannozzo, project director. 

“Many of our students need to work while in school,” she said, “so the fact that we can provide them with professional training working with such an important population and pay them for their time is a win-win.”

Buffalo State students have tutored in underperforming schools in the past, but Title I funding earmarked for such programs has decreased, while the need for literacy intervention has swelled. Thus, M&T Bank stepped up and pledged $40,000 to start the new literacy initiative.

“M&T knows how important it is to use our resources to benefit the communities where our customers and employees live and work,” said Shelley C. Drake, president of the M&T Charitable Foundation. “Clearly, so does Buffalo State, which is making positive inroads in the West Side neighborhoods adjacent to its urban campus. That’s why we are delighted to be a partner in Buffalo State’s educational initiative promoting K-8 literacy on Buffalo’s West Side.

“Additionally, this great program is one more in a group of initiatives that M&T supports that is largely directed at low-to-moderate and immigrant populations on the West Side where need is so high.”

The initiative is based upon CEURE’s successful Supplemental Education Services (SES) that began in 2012 in which 65 Buffalo State students tutored in four low-performing schools. Prior to beginning direct tutoring, Buffalo State students completed up to 20 hours of training from college faculty and experts in the field. And the students who received tutoring demonstrated significant increases on both standardized and criterion-based assessments from beginning to end of program.

The new initiative modifies the former program to flexibly meet the learning and instructional needs of the school.

“The tutors will likely pair with classroom teachers to identify specific learning needs and goals of these children,” Pannozzo said.

Each student will receive a formal diagnostic assessment of literacy skills, an individualized learning plan, direct instruction with a structured curriculum aligned with national best practices and New York State standards, ongoing progress monitoring, and homework support. Over the course of the program, students will receive an additional 100 hours of intensive literacy instruction, double what the average student in the SES program received.

“This new initiative will allow us to expand our footprint through direct programming and gather important data regarding the ongoing impact of the program that can be used to inform expansion initiatives with other existing WSPN partner schools and organizations,” said John Siskar, director of CEURE.



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