"I can concentrate better here than at home."
When nearly 1,000 seventh and eighth graders explode out of Carl Sandburg Intermediate every day at 2:40, about 70 students remain behind for Project Achievement -- and most of them seem to like the experience.
In a darkroom, seventh grader Idil Abrahim enlarges some pictures she had taken the week before and reports that she likes the unstructured nature of the program, tutoring, study groups, and special activities, for two hours a day, three days a week.
"I like Project Achievement because I can concentrate better here than at home," says Idil. "I used to have trouble in math, but my grades are better now that I can ask questions during our study groups."
Started in 1992, Project Achievement provides both academic and social support for at-risk students after school. It is designed to extend the amount of time students spend on instruction and development with supportive adults by as much as 30 percent a year, and school officials report better grades, improved goal-setting and time-management skills, greater commitment to the school, and better attitudes toward learning on the part of students.
The program is in two parts, Sandburg received an RJR Nabisco Foundation Next Century School Award to mount the project in 1992. A six-week summer program helps prepare students for a successful start to the school year. It focuses on developing basic academic skills, encouraging personal accountability and goal setting, and fostering a sense of membership in the school community. It runs for six hours a day, four days a week, for six weeks.
Judy Drew Fairchild, director of the project, says that the summer curriculum is "a vigorous, nontraditional approach to learning. All lessons revolve around the theme of "investment," stressing the fact that an individual must invest time and effort in order to reap rewards." One summer emphasized "Investing in the Environment" and encouraged students to explore open-ended questions such as: What structures does society create to protect certain environments? What responsibilities do individual citizens have to abide by the rules of society? By the end of the summer, students were expected to apply this approach to their school.
The after-school programs during the year help maintain the momentum. Project Achievement combines intensive work in reading and writing with goal-setting and personal skills development. Special activities, including quilting, arts and crafts, publishing, recycling, theater arts, sign language, shop, passport to the world, and fitness and recreation, offer students "exciting and active ways to approach learning that take advantage of student energy and curiosity," according to Fairchild.
For additional information:
Judy Drew Fairchild or Lori Friebert Granz
Director, Project Achievement
Carl Sandburg Intermediate School
8428 Fort Hunt Road
Alexandria, VA 22308