In 1996 Cynthia began her work in New York City schools as a consultant to the W. Haywood Burns School, a K-8 public school in the Inwood section of Manhattan. She supported teachers in implementing a whole-school literacy education model organized to support social interaction. Over the course of more than two decades in more than 20 Pre-K through 12th grade schools, Cynthia has refined the Learning Cultures model through a process of action research.
The Learning Cultures model has been implemented on a school-wide basis in several schools. Profiles of these schools are featured below. School performance data illustrates the impact of the program and school quality review reports contextualize how the Learning Cultures program was used.
The Family School is a K-5 school located in the South Bronx. In 2012 Cynthia began work with the school to implement Learning Cultures in a single kindergarten classroom, conducting lab sites to demonstrate the practices to other K-2 teachers. By the end of the 2012-2013 school year all primary grade teachers elected to implement the program. In 2013-2014 the reading and writing formats were implemented in some 3-5 classrooms. In 2014-2015 the Learning Cultures program was being implemented in all classrooms.
The High School of Language and Innovation opened in 2011 starting with 9th grade, adding a new grade each year. The poverty index at the school is 97% and 81% of students are English language learners. Cynthia worked with the school to develop its academic programs in all classes and subjects around the Learning Cultures model. The first cohort to have had the Learning Cultures program for all 4 years of high school in all of their classes graduated in 2015. This group had a 73% graduation rate, outpacing the city average by three points and outpacing demographically similar schools by five points. 52% of the students were deemed to be ‘college ready’ compared to 35% of students city-wide and 19% of students in demographically comparable schools. The school formally implemented Learning Cultures through Spring 2015.
The Jacob Riis School is a public Pre-K through 8th grade school in Lower Manhattan. Cynthia began working with the school in Fall 2007 to implement Learning Cultures. The methods were initially demonstrated in PK-8 classrooms. In Spring 2008 the model was implemented in elementary writing classrooms and in Fall 2008 the model was implemented in middle school classrooms. The Learning Cultures reading program was implemented in both elementary and middle school reading classrooms beginning in Fall 2008. Learning Cultures continued to be implemented in all PK-8 reading and writing classrooms through 2011.
In 2013 the Urban Assembly High School for Green Careers was the fourth lowest performing high school in New York City. The graduation rate was then 38%. This was the year the school began to implement the Learning Cultures program in every subject and in every grade. In 2017 the school graduated its first cohort to have had four years of the Learning Cultures program with a graduation rate of 84%. Cynthia's on-site work concluded in 2017, but the school continues to independently use the Learning Cultures model.
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