New initiative addresses student achievement gaps in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Figures which are coming out of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools system show that by the end of the third grade, 40 percent of their students are struggling academically; many with reading levels lower than grade level.

Community leaders and businesses recognized that, not only do they want these students to be successful, they need them to be.

“The reality is there’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” said Winston-Salem Foundation President Scott Wierman.

Project Impact, which is an initiative created by those community leaders and businesses, may be the solution.

“They need to graduate, they need to have skills, so they can be employed and have successful lives,” Wierman said.

The idea of Project Impact was presented to the school system, with a goal of raising $45 million, and $22 million worth of contributions so far. It will address those student achievement gaps by starting initiatives to complement those already in place within the school system.

“It’s incredibly humbling, but it also lights a little fire for us,” said Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Dr. Beverly Emory.

In order to impact the futures of these students, the school system and the contributors recognize they have to start early, for once they fall behind, it’s difficult to catch up.

“You can’t wait until they walk into the kindergarten classroom for the first time,” Wierman said.

The money will compliment ongoing efforts within the school system, spreading the money out over a term of six years.

“This is the first time that something of this scale has happened in Winston-Salem, Forsyth County,” Wierman said, with Dr. Emory adding that she has “never experienced this kind of community support.”

The program will begin with Kindercamps this summer, and future ideas include new pre-K units in the fall, as well as a much larger launch the following fall.

The Project Impact press release states; “A significant portion of money raised is on a match basis. Project Impact’s leadership is urging businesses, foundations and other groups to make pledges of support and take advantage of an additional $12.5 million that is available on a 50 percent match basis.”

The project will operate under an advisory board, consisting of eight community leaders and two non-voting, non-local experts in the early childhood education field, according to the release.

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