The Dean’s Excellence Fund frequently serves as a start-up funding source for meaningful faculty-led projects. Examples in recent years include the Baylor Freedom School project, Math for Early Learners Academy, and Project Promise, all of which have had significant impact on local students. At the same time, these projects provide research opportunities for Baylor faculty and graduate students and teaching opportunities for Baylor undergraduate teacher-education students.
The Baylor Freedom School is a seven-week summer program that is part of the network of the Children’s Defense Fund. The program aims to reduce summer learning loss and increase literacy through culturally relevant books, along with STEAM and civics activities. The Waco program began in 2017, led by School of Education assistant professor Dr. Lakia Scott. Follow-up research showed that for students who attended in 2017, 93 percent maintained or increased their reading abilities and did not experience summer learning loss.
MELA (Math for Early Learners Academy) runs for four weeks in the summer and provides mathematics instruction for children entering kindergarten or first grade who have been identified as performing below their peers on a test of broad math ability. Follow-up assessments showed that MELA participants had caught up with their peers in math ability. Acquiring these math skills is pivotal, said MELA founder and director Dr. Sandi Cooper, professor of mathematics education, because research shows early math skills are a better predictor of academic success than are reading skills.
Project Promise is the scholarship component of the SOE’s University for Young People, a summer enrichment program for students identified as gifted and talented. Students choose from dozens of classes offered for 4th – 12th graders on the Baylor campus, with a goal of encouraging college attendance. Research has shown that the program has significant effects on the students’ likelihood to attend and succeed in post-secondary education.
Supporting the Dean’s Fund can further the impact of these great programs and others that Baylor faculty may dream for the future.