Children living in group homes often are challenged by learning difficulties. The Duke Endowment invested $3 million from 2002-2004 to help teachers and students discover new ways to improve academic performance. The Endowment is no longer accepting grant applications for this closed initiative.
Many children living in group homes suffer from developmental and other challenges that make it difficult for them to learn in traditional ways. As a result, schoolwork becomes daunting and discouraging, adding yet another layer of challenge to already difficult circumstances.
In 2001, The Duke Endowment asked children's homes that were grantees of the Endowment about the reading readiness of students in their care. The results showed that more than 50 percent of students in responding homes were not performing at the appropriate grade level for their ages. Many were at least one academic year behind, and several were behind by three or four years.
Because The Duke Endowment believes that academic success is a key factor in a child's overall happiness, self-esteem and hope for the future, the Endowment created the Learning Initiative in partnership with All Kinds of Minds, a nonprofit affiliated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. All Kinds of Minds focuses on the many ways that children can learn, and helps both children and educators capitalize on learning strengths and address weaknesses. The Learning Initiative looked at whether All Kinds of Minds' proven approaches could help improve academic success among residents of the nine participating children's homes.
The nine children's homes participating in the Learning Initiative were divided into two cohorts to facilitate program delivery and evaluation. The first group began work in 2002, the second in 2003. (Two homes dropped out during the course of the initiative.)
For the Learning Initiative, All Kinds of Minds delivered a three-prong approach at participating homes:
- Assessment and learning plans: 308 individual student assessments were performed at All Kinds of Minds' Student Success Center in Chapel Hill for students in 3rd through 8th grades identified by each children's home as needing the most academic help. Students worked with clinicians to determine their learning strengths and weaknesses. Clinicians defined each student's learning profile, developed customized learning plans, and devised methods to help students become more productive learners.
- Teacher training: All Kinds of Minds delivered five days of its "Schools Attuned" training to 96 teachers. The training helped teachers improve their own instructional practices for struggling learners. Once teachers returned to their classroom, All Kinds of Minds followed with continued training at each campus.
- Caregiver training: Because students at children's homes rely on resident caregivers as substitute parents, All Kinds of Minds also developed training materials that were used on site to help caregivers reinforce activities occurring at the Student Success Center and in the classroom.
- Boys & Girls Homes of North Carolina, Lake Waccamaw
- The Children's Home, Inc., Winston-Salem
- Crossnore School, Inc., Crossnore
- Epworth Children's Home, Columbia
- Tamassee DAR School, Tamassee
- Tara Hall Home for Boys, Georgetown
- Thornwell Home & School for Children, Clinton