Awards & Recognition
SHA wins national recognition for literacy efforts
Springfield Housing Authority has been recognized by the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading for its efforts to boost early literacy with a family-based program at two developments.
The recognition is the only one given this year in the state of Massachusetts – and it came with congratulations from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Casto
SHA Executive Director William Abrashkin said the recognition is thanks to the Talk/Read/Succeed! literacy program underway for the past six years at Robinson Gardens and Sullivan Apartments. The collaborative program involves several local agencies and two elementary schools, and aims to engage entire families in the process of success both in school and in life.
“This shows that our program is working, and it gives us recognition and credibility,” said Abrashkin, one of the founders of T/R/S! and a true believer in its ability to impact lives for the better in the long run.
“Through T/R/S!, we’ve been building deeper relationships with our families, and with our primary focus on literacy for our young residents, that leads to success,” he added.
The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading singled out the SHA and 11 other public housing agencies across the country as making strides in school attendance, by focusing on families and literacy. The recognition coincide with national the Attendance Awareness Month campaign in September.
Studies have historically shown that school attendance correlates with good grades and better reading skills, which correlate to reaching higher education levels and doing better financially in life.
HUD Secretary Julian Casto commended all 12 of the housing authorities for efforts that lead to better attendance and ultimately, higher literacy rates.
“A quality education is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children,” Castro said in a released statement.
“There’s no more important mission than to use housing as a platform for success, and we need to make certain that our youngest residents have every opportunity that an education provides. I’m thrilled that these housing agencies have taken on this challenge and are serving as a model for other housing authorities,” Castro added.
With a goal of having all children read at grade level by the end of third grade, the T/R/S! program focuses on four areas: parent engagement, parent education, child education and family self-sufficiency.
T/R/S! programming begins for babies and runs right up through the adult level, with parents and young children working on early literacy skills, older children getting summer learning programming, educational trips and many hands-on activities with an eye towards developing skills in the spoken and written words. At Robinson Gardens, the effort is augmented by a Youth Group that meets weekdays after school, guiding teens through academics, life skills and jobs. Adults can learn parenting skills and get education and job training, along with help getting jobs.
One goal of T/R/S! has been to expand the holistic approach to literacy to other SHA family developments and across the city – Robinson Gardens and Sullivan Apartments have a total 232 units – but obtaining new funding has been an ongoing issue.
Abrashkin noted that while short-term indicators show that participating families are more involved in their children’s schools, and children are doing better academically, the program is too new to measure in a long-range way. The SHA recently contracted with the Malden-based Institute for Community Health to track and measure the performance of T/R/S!
“When an organization is trying to grow a program like T/R/S!, the growth requires access to funding,” Abrashkin said. “Funders rely on metrics, data and an evaluation process.”
Recognition such as the one from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading can only help, he noted.
The T/R/S! program has been recognized over the years, including one ‘Award of Merit’ in 2012 by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment.
T/R/S! collaborators include the Springfield School Department, the Springfield Teachers Association, Behavioral Health Network, the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, and the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County.
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