Mayor allows paid-time off to tutor city students

Baltimore city government employees are now able to devote up to two work hours per week to helping third-grade students hone their reading skills, the mayor's office announced this month.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake signed the executive order on Feb. 1, according to a release, that would allow full-time employees to volunteer in the Baltimore city school system to provide one-on-one tutoring to students struggling with reading--a cause the mayor has taken up as part of her "Third Grade Reads Initiative." 

In September, Baltimore was named among cities that received a $40,000 grant to target reading in third-grade--which research identifies as a critical point in a student's literacy development.

Currently, about 35 percent of Baltimore City's third graders are not reading at proficient levels, and the district's overall reading scores on the Maryland School Assessments slid back 2 percentage points this year.

The initiative targets 250 of those students in four schools: Edgecombe Circle Elementary, Callaway Elementary, Friendship Academy at Cherry Hill, and Westport Academy.

According to the announcement, the program has three key components: an evidence-based  curriculum, a measure of progress and results, and a goal to have students achieve a one-grade-level increase in reading skills, on average, after 26 hours of tutoring.

The application process opened up to city employees last week. The employees have to the =hours approved by supervisors, go through training, and a criminal background check.

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