ConTextos Annual Report
Celebrating our First Year, Preparing for the Next
Dear friends, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” This Frederick Douglas quote reminds me of ConTextos’ schools, images of children laughing over picture books, intrigued by novels, questioning scientific diagrams… Ten years ago, these communities lived almost exclusively in orality. Today, ConTextos guides the transition into literacy, forming global citizens with a sense of local responsibility. Our work, creating communities of readers, sets students free to be successful in school and define their own futures. Over the past year, ConTextos has learned much about the problems that plague schools in El Salvador, throughout the region and in the under-developed world. Teachers are ill-prepared to enable students with the skills necessary for success in the 21st century. Through ConTextos’ partnerships, we’ve been able to bring much-needed resources to schools. But books and materials aren’t enough. ConTextos builds capacity that goes beyond just teaching reading and writing to foster literate environments. ConTextos transforms teacher practice with results that can be measured in student experience and outcomes. As you read this, or the daily newspaper, or a good book, remember that forming readers takes more than just donated materials, but an environment that cultivates shared experiences and dialogue. The human desire to learn is strong, but sadly, millions of children learn to stop thinking at school. ConTextos changes this. As the world gets smaller and our connectedness grows stronger, we have an obligation to help all children receive an education that allows them to be successful and free. I’m proud to share all that ConTextos has accomplished and learned in this first year. These early experiences inform us to expand our work in the coming years, into more schools and more children’s lives.
Debra Gittler Founder and Executive Director
Issue | Date
June 2010‐ May 2011 June
The first committed board members; collaboration with MINED Creation of website
August Establishing a Vision and a Salvadoran Team
Program Accomplishments Since January 2010, ConTextos has distributed 4,006 books to four public schools, benefiting 1,235 students and their 600 families. 31 teachers and 4 Directors are receiving direct on-going training.
School selection process begins
ConTextos established as a 501c3 in Chicago; first official board meeting
School selection process completed; fundraising begins in USA
Four pilot phase schools chosen; team‐building and training begins in El Salvador
Diagnostic process in all four schools; First Book Donation of 992 books
In‐school support in full swing
Board Meeting and Growing ConTextos’ network
3,014 additional books donated to schools; building the Salvadoran board
ConTextos’ Schools School Name BUENA VISTA EL ZAPOTE CORINTO SAN JORGE TOTAL
Boys 269 194 158 62 683
Girls 230 160 123 59 572
Students 499 354 281 121 1,235
10 499 12 5 4 31
k-8 k-12 k-9 k-5
In February, we filmed, interviewed and/or surveyed 100% of participating teachers, 30% of students and 30% of parents in a comprehensive diagnostic study.
Class work featured copying from a book or the board, or identifying parts of speech in the textbook. Reading activities emphasized Before ConTextos’ intervention, mechanics of decoding, without students had virtually no access to emphasizing literal or higher books at school, other than the levels of comprehension. (Continued)
Dolor Sit Amet
In interviews, teachers did not distinguish between having students copy a text and having students read that text. The majority of teachers believed that copying text was evidence of comprehension. Similarly, teachers did not distinguish between asking a child to copy a text and asking them to produce their own written work; they did not differentiate between dictation (reading something aloud for students to write) and authentic writing activities that promote expression—be it creative, argumentative, persuasive, etc. In short, classroom practice emphasized decoding and encoding text without emphasizing the value of written language or the deep thinking that gives reading purpose.
Issue | Date
Completing the diagnostic surveys and interviews has helped ConTextos stay focused on improving the quality of education using texts as a vehicle to promote critical thinking, problem solving and literacy in all subject areas. Through our pilot phase diagnostics, we’ve improved our questions to better show the reality before our intervention. Throughout the year, ConTextos monitors and documents the evolving student experience to show impact during and after our intervention.
“Literacy unlocks the door to learning throughout life, is essential to development and health, and opens the way for democratic participation and active citizenship.”
– Kofi Annan, former United Nations’ Secretary‐General
Measuring child outcomes—not just in test scores or attendance, but in overall experience— distinguishes ConTextos from most other educational nonprofits that only focus on outputs like number of teachers trained or resources delivered.
UNESCO’s Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals strive to improve education and literacy in the least developed countries. As a result, more kids are going to school, but the quality of education and overall outcomes are worse than ever. According to the most recent UNESCO global statistics, illiteracy rates have increased by 5% for males and 10% for females in the least developed countries since 1990. In El Salvador and neighboring countries, data show that 70%
of primary students read far below level with limited understanding of written text.
Dolor Sit Amet
Issue | Date
Literacy vs. Alfabetization
UNESCO defines literacy as the "ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society."
“The English term literacy is very difficult to translate into Spanish. “Alfabetización” continues to have very general, traditional meaning that implies only the most basic decoding skills of reading and writing. In contrast the term literacy incroporates the complicated thinking processes and human reflection that has evolved as a result of written language…” Daniel Cassany Doctor of Linguistics, University of Barcelona Critical Perspectives on Literacy
Student Results “Before ConTextos, we never read, just copied. Now I read books every day,” explained Abigail, a 5th grader at San Jorge School. “We use them in class and I take them home. Our teacher has us act out what the stories are about, read them out loud to our classmates and write our own stories about the books.” Abigail is currently reading Hiroshima, a youngadult chapter book that tells the story of the atomic bomb through narratives by a Japanese child and the pilot of Enola Gay. In training, her teacher Mirna is learning to use text to get students thinking deeply about point of view. Through class conversation and written work, Abigail and her classmates are learning about different
perspectives, developing global awareness and gaining exposure to problem-solving skills. At Sacacoyo School, Director Juan Gamero says the student results have already been impressive. “We completed a comparative analysis of 2011 and 2010 using indicators from the Ministry of Education. We observed that the first semester of 2010, 40% of students in 1-3rd grades were farbelow level (failing) in literacy abilities. At the same time in 2011, only 20% of students in the same group were below grade level. “This year, we’ve seen these children reading with greater fluency and interest, analyzing texts in their classroom and practicing reading comprehension. (Continued)
Dolor Sit Amet
Issue | Date
We believe that these are direct results of the support that 1-3rd grade teachers are receiving from ConTextos.” Juan underscored that the only thing different between this year and last is the support offered by ConTextos. So far, each school has established protocols and processes to document student book use—how often books are taken home and by whom—so that ConTextos can monitor student exposure to books. Gamero laughed when he talked about Miguel, a first grader, who keeps checking out the same book. “When he takes the book home, his mom, dad, siblings all want to read and look at the book. Miguel
almost never gets a chance to see it alone so he has to check it out In the traditional classroom, again!” students do not talk but At Zapote School, Director Hector says that the most remarkable changes has been in the k-5th grade students. “They run for the books at recess,” he explains. “The quality of the books combined with the engagement in their classrooms gives reading a real purpose.”
only listen to teachers. In ConTextos’ classrooms, teachers facilitate student discussion, encouraging students to think deeply, interact and dialogue.
ConTextos plans to complete midyear student surveys in August. We are constantly adjusting and refining our measurement tools to adequately document student experiences. MINED literacy results will be available in 2012.
In the first 3 months of support, ConTextos observed on average 25% of teachers immediately embraced and implemented new methodologies, actively, continuously seeking out guided support from trainers. 25% were equally motivated to participate, but initially expressed fear or concern about moving away from traditional practice. These numbers are consistent with international research about teacher professional development.
having four or 14 teachers—host all-staff professional development for 3 hours/month, either in bi-weekly or monthly sessions. Then, self- and ConTextos-identified “strong wave” teachers receive additional support through classroom modeling, observation and planning. These strong wave classrooms serve as sites to get “small wave” teachers more engaged in reflection about their practice. 100% of teachers in each school are participating in daily read-aloud and full-school professional development, and are open to observations and modeling in their classroom; strong wave teachers do even more.
In the past month, though, we have seen teacher participation increase because of our new “Strongsmall wave” philosophy. All schools—whether
The Ministry of Education (MINED) uses “strong wave” classrooms as model sites for regional development of teachers and directors. MINED—
“La ola fuerte lleva la ola pequeña,” “The strong wave carries the small.” –Cuban saying.
Dolor Sit Amet
Issue | Date
with ConTextos’ support—organizes inter-school exchanges where strong wave teachers model and host workshops about best-practice, spreading new knowledge beyond our four pilot phase schools. Transforming teachers mired in a traditional mindset requires on-going accompaniment, guidance and observation. ConTextos fosters model teachers and classrooms while still having institutional and systemic impact. This poises ConTextos to grow throughout El Salvador and the region. Total Teachers San Jorge Corinto Zapote Sacacoyo
4 5 12 10
Percent 4 4 8 5
100% 80% 67% 50%
The first 3 months in schools made it clear that our teachers need ways to improve practice through quantifiable means, and then deepen their understanding of the quality of that work. As a result, ConTextos has developed unique instruments that help teachers plan, execute and reflect upon classroom practice. These tools allow teachers to use simple quantity measurements as
well as more nuanced quality measurements; they also allow trainers to tailor training to the “context” of a school or classroom while staying true to ConTextos’ core, guiding principles and theories of learning. For instance, in traditional classrooms, students do not talk but only listen to teachers. In a ConTextos’ classroom, teachers facilitate discussion, encouraging students to interact and dialogue. In order to help teachers make this transition, one area of development is the “conversation tail”. Teachers can literally count how many students talk before she re-directs conversation. As her ability to manage and facilitate talk improves, she will be able to focus more on the quality of the student participation as a result of her orientation. This is just one example of how ConTextos “scaffolds” teacher knowledge and practice to sustainably create permanent change in classroom instruction. To date, all four ConTextos schools have implemented 20-minute blocks per “turno” (there are two “turns” in a day: one group of kids come to school in the morning, another in the afternoon) to practice new strategies.
Parent and Community Outreach
“You don’t have to know how to read letters to be able to read books with your children!” On May 18, Maria, mother to a kindergartner and 2nd grader, spoke into the microphone to the audience of nearly 100 parents and 300 students. “You can use the pictures and your child can help you. The important thing is that you talk together about the book and the reading. I’ve seen it in my children and one is only in kindergarten. He already reads so much…” Dolor Sit Amet
Issue | Date
Just three months earlier, though, Maria refused to even touch a book. In mid February, ConTextos held a series of community-wide events to present our objective to parents and family members. Maria refused to take a book from the selection of 100 on the table. “I don’t know how to read,” she explained. Maria held the book at arms length and refused to look at the cover. “I don’t know how to read,” she repeated. Maria, shaken and uncomfortable, refused to participate and insisted that books and reading weren’t for her. Transformations like Maria’s have occurred in all four schools sites. In the course of just three months, mothers, fathers and grandparents who refused to touch a book, who insisted that they couldn’t read (but were willing to do anything to make sure their kids could!) were transformed into passionate advocates for sharing the reading process, no matter their own ability to decipher textual code. By increasing access to books and readings, parents have become better-informed advocates for their children. Before, teachers and directors explained, parents would complain that their children were not doing “planas” a traditional teaching strategy where students would repeatedly write a word, sometimes 100s of times, in order to “learn to read and write”. Now, those same parents insist on more authentic and progressive learning strategies such as reading genuine texts, writing stories, and talking about new ideas. Parents and community members also donate time, resources and labor to build shelves, care for books and support kids in reading activities. The role of parents and community members is constantly evolving as schools incorporate drama and other events to celebrate student work as result of new teaching strategies.
Dolor Sit Amet
Up to 80 percent of incarcerated individuals are functionally illiterate; Studies show that if a child reads on grade level by the end of 3rd grade, there is a 99 percent certainty that child will never be incarcerated; school performance, more than any other single factor, is a major contributor as to whether a youth becomes involved in drugs or violence. http://www.good.is/post/preventing-violence-by-teaching-literacy/
Statement of Activities October 2010*-May 2011 REVENUES INDIVIDUAL DONORS FOUNDATIONS DONATIONS IN KIND TOTAL
$43,642.49 $10,000.00 $37,154.69 $90,797.18
EXPENSES SALARIES TRAVEL EXPENSES TRANSPORTATION BOOKS OTHER BOOKS & SHIPPING CONSULTANTS LEGAL/IRS HARDWARE OTHER
$21,588.00 $3,283.30 $1,628.62 $4,188.67 $37,154.69 $750.00 $2,374.00 $1,099.70 $3,889.42
*ConTextos started fundraising as a 501c3 in October, 2010.
Board of Directors Debra Gittler Fabricio Altamirano
Mary Lee Kennedy
Jose Marinero Cortéz
Paula Bustamante Cruz
Andrea Schildknecht de Mendez Doug Rauch
Issue | Date
Donors and Partners Corporate Alliances and In-Kind Donors
The generosity of in-kind donations and corporate support brings a value of over $40,000 from October 2010- May 2011. Generous discounts and donations from Lectorum Publishers, in-kind book donations from Scholastic, Inc, free shipping from Taca Airlines and ongoing support from El Salvador Ministry of Education lowers costs and raises quality. Thank you!
Dolor Sit Amet
ChiRon Foundation Strachan Foundation Mr. Herminio Alicea Ms. Meghan Meyer Mr. and Mrs. Baillie Mr. and Mrs. Jose Marinero Mr. Barash and Ms. Hanson Teresa and Bill Mlawer Maria Pilar Blanco Mr. Elizabeth Muller Mr. and Mrs. Marc Blumenthal Ms. Nell O’Donnell Dario Collado Mr. Jaime Perez Mr. and Mrs. Fred Caruso Mr. Rajiv Pinto Ms. Holly Crowl Mr. Doug Rauch Ms. Gwyneth Cunningham Jenny and Aaron Richey Mr. and Mr.s Joel D’Alba Mr. Daniel Robinson Mr. Kenneth Ebie Ms. Jaxira Rodriguez Mr. Omar Egan Mr. Scott Ruescher Mrs. Debra Epstein Ms. Kyla Saphir Paul and Mimi Francis Marge and John Saphir Ms. Nicole Gallagher Ms. Donna Schatt Mr. James Garbarino Mr. and Mrs. Gordy Schiff Ms. Mandy Gittler Shirley and Yonk Selhub Ms. Josie Gittler Mr. Michael Shimkin Carol and Marvin Gittler Mr. Patrick Spann Ms. Julie Goldenberg Mr. and Mrs. Glen Spear Mr. and Mrs. Robert Greenberg Ms. Sherri Spear Ms. Kathy Gu Mrs. Barbara Stone Ms.Beth Halevy Mr. Marc Stulberg Mr. Stanley Hill Mrs. Linda Swift Mark Hoffman Ms. Kerry Salvatierra Ms.Uchenna Itam Ms. Sarah Tartof Ms.Elizabeth Joynes Ms. Julie Trott Ms. Betsey Kalven Ms. Sarah Tuttle Shyam Kannan Mr. and Mrs. Harold Uhlig Mary Lee Kennedy Ms. Rebecca Utton Molly Kovler Mr. Holger Wilms Mary Pat Leonard Susie & Dave Wexler and family Kimberly Lum Ms. Ami Werner Gerson Martinez Ann Worthing & Melinda Rezman Eileen McGowan Ms. Alexis Weill And over 90 additional individual donations of $50 or less. 9
Issue | Date
1243 N. Leavitt #2, Chicago, IL 60622 USA Res. Villas de Francia, Senda la Bastilla 9C Santa Tecla La Libertad El Salvador
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free,” Frederick Douglas
www.con‐textos.org Dolor Sit Amet