CDF Freedom Schools® Program

The CDF Freedom Schools® program seeks to build strong, literate, and empowered children prepared to make a difference in themselves, their families, communities, nation and world today. By providing summer and after-school reading enrichment for children who might otherwise not have access to books, the CDF Freedom Schools program plays a much needed role in helping to curb summer learning loss and close achievement gaps – and is a key part of CDF’s work to ensure a level playing field for all children. In partnership with local congregations, schools, colleges and universities, community organizations, and secure juvenile justice facilities the CDF Freedom Schools program boosts student motivation to read, generates more positive attitudes toward learning, increases self-esteem and connects the needs of children and families to the resources of their communities. Since 1995, more than 125,000 preK-12 children have had a CDF Freedom Schools experience and more than 15,000 college students and recent graduates have been trained by CDF to deliver this empowering model.

The CDF Freedom Schools model incorporates the totality of the Children's Defense Fund's mission by fostering environments that support children and young adults to excel and believe in their ability to make a difference Site coordinators and project directors are also trained by CDF to provide supervision and administrative oversight.

The program provides an exciting Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC) including carefully chosen developmentally appropriate and culturally relevant books. The model curriculum supports children and families around five essential components:

Program Impact

This summer, CDF Freedom Schools sponsor partners served over 12,700 children in 107 cities and 28 states and Washington, D.C. Since 1995, over 125,000 children and families have been touched by the CDF Freedom Schools program experience. More than 15,000 college students have been trained to deliver this empowering model.

An evaluation conducted following the 2005-2006 CDF Freedom Schools Emergency Katrina Projects in Mississippi and Louisiana verifies that a majority of children regarded as "unreachable" or "unteachable" with difficult attitudes and low self-esteem made great improvements. After participation in the CDF Freedom Schools program, over 80% of the children reported having a "good time" and three-quarters felt happy or "like something good is going to happen," despite great loss and trauma. Seventy percent of the children reported they were "just as good as other children," an increase of 13 percent.

The E. M. Kauffman funded Philliber Research Associates evaluation of the CDF Freedom Schools program in Kansas City conducted between 2005-2007 indicates children who attend CDF Freedom Schools programs score significantly higher on standardized reading achievement tests than children who attend other summer enrichment programs; African American middle schools boys made the greatest gains of all. Some of the findings from the evaluation are:

  • Continued participation in the CDF Freedom Schools program increases the impact on reading achievement. Scholars who participated for at least three years increased their reading skills (by 2.2 grade equivalents, compared to 1.4) for those who participated two years and (0.2) for those who participated only one year. The average student in the comparison group increased less than a grade equivalent each year. Scholars who attended Kansas City CDF Freedom Schools programs for three years demonstrated gains almost twice the size of those in the comparison group.
  • The sites that best implement the CDF Freedom Schools model have the best results. The more closely a site adhered to the model, the greater the average reading gains among scholars. Particularly important was how well staff prepare for their scholars, stay involved in activities and consistently use active learning to engage their scholars.
  • Students enrolled in the CDF Freedom Schools program improved their readings skills more than students not enrolled in the CDF Freedom Schools program. Both boys and girls improved, but boys showed more improvement. Middle school students showed the largest gain in reading skills.
  • Parents of CDF Freedom Schools students reported their children had a greater love of learning, better conflict resolution skills and more involvement in the community after participating in the program.
  • Servant leader interns provided children with positive role models. Half of the servant leader interns had previously held a position of leadership in a community organization. Over eighty percent had been involved in extra-curricular activities at school, church or other community organizations.

CDF Freedom Schools® Lessons Learned

Lesson 1: Children's reading abilities benefit directly from participation.

One of the most exciting findings reported is the positive gain that scholars make in reading by participating in the CDF Freedom Schools program. The gains are also widespread, occurring among scholars in each age group.

Reading scores among students in the comparison group were also higher at the end of the summer than at the beginning, but they were not significantly higher. Comparison students enrolled in other academic programs improved their reading more than students who were not enrolled in academic programs, but neither group improved as much as CDF Freedom Schools children improved.

Lesson 2: Children demonstrated positive character development from participation.

Parents of CDF Freedom Schools children see more positive changes than parents of comparison students see among their children in attitudes toward learning, community involvement, conflict resolution skills, acceptance of responsibility and social adjustment.

Lesson 3: CDF Freedom Schools programs increase the effectiveness of parental involvement in their children’s education.

CDF Freedom Schools programs help parents do a better job supporting their children’s academic development by exposing them to fun, high-energy teaching methodologies and imparting a greater understanding of children’s development and learning styles.

Lesson 4: Servant leader interns are chosen because they will be positive role models for children.

Many servant leaders interns are involved in their communities and campuses as leaders before joining CDF Freedom Schools program sites. They bring their assets to CDF Freedom Schools programs, and learn new skills there. CDF Freedom Schools sponsor partners choose their interns well.

Lesson 5: CDF Freedom Schools programs are valuable assets to sponsor partners.

Organizations that host CDF Freedom Schools programs have histories as strong community groups. Most operate a number of programs serving their communities. However, the CDF Freedom Schools program has provided them a way to do something they were not doing or, more often, to do it better. It has filled an important gap.

Core Beliefs

The core beliefs and educational philosophy that guide CDF Freedom Schools and all CDF youth development programs are:

  • All children are capable of learning and achieving at high standards.
  • Culture and community conditions influence child learning.
  • Appreciation and knowledge of one’s culture engenders self worth and the ability to live in community with others.
  • Education, teachers, and mentors are transformative agents.
  • Literacy is essential to personal empowerment and civic responsibility.
  • Effective teaching requires planning, creativity, and implementation, with reflection and processing.
  • Learning communities that offer a sense of safety, love, caring, and personal power are needed for transformative education.
  • Classroom discipline and management are integral parts of instructional practice.
  • Parents are crucial partners in children’s learning and need supports to become better parents.
  • As citizens, children and adults have the power to make a difference in their communities and be advocates for themselves.
History

The CDF Freedom Schools program is proudly rooted in the American Civil Rights Movement and the courageous efforts of college age youth to make a difference.

Freedom Summer of 1964  

The "Mississippi Freedom Summer Project" of 1964 was organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), two leading Civil Rights organizations.

SNCC, a political organization formed in 1960 by Black college students in the United States was dedicated to overturning segregation in the South. The COFO was an umbrella organization that coordinated activities of various leading groups such as Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).  These two major entities continued the struggle in Mississippi and called for "Freedom Summer."

The Freedom Summer Project was a major political action program designed to engage White and Black students and community volunteers in a variety of strategic activities to ensure basic citizenship rights for all Mississippians, most importantly the right to vote..

The Freedom Summer Project of 1964 activities included:

  • promoting a massive drive for voter registration among disenfranchised Blacks and coordinating a mock election;
  • creating community centers to provide weekly instruction and entertainment for Blacks;
  • conducting Freedom Schools, a summer education program to provide Black children and teenagers with a richer educational experience than was offered in Mississippi public schools; and
  • modeling for Mississippi children their responsibility to become a force for change in their state and nation.

These Freedom Schools provided reading instruction; a humanities curriculum emphasizing English, foreign languages, art, creative writing; and a general mathematics and science curriculum. These schools were structured to motivate young people to become engaged in their communities and to help them identify and design authentic solutions to local problems.

Freedom Schools Reborn: the CDF Freedom Schools Program Model

The Freedom Schools movement was reborn under the leadership of Marian Wright Edelman and the Children's Defense Fund's Black Community Crusade for Children® (BCCC®) campaign. The goal was to advance a transforming vision of education for all children through the CDF Freedom Schools program.

In the words of Dr. John Hope Franklin, honorary co-chair of the BCCC program, “[We want to help our children develop] an understanding and appreciation for family, for their own rich heritage derived from their African forebears as well as their American experience, the kind of understanding that will simultaneously provide them with roots and wings."

In 1995, the first two official CDF Freedom Schools sites opened their doors, serving children in Bennettsville, SC and Kansas City, MO. With an increased focus on literacy, parent involvement, conflict resolution, and social action, the CDF Freedom Schools program utilizes an award-winning integrated reading curriculum and develops engaging lesson plans and hands-on activities to accompany it.

The CDF Freedom Schools model engages students in their local community and the larger national and world context. We expect our teachers, parents, children and staff to set high expectations for themselves and welcome the challenges of personal growth and transformation.

Much like the summer of 1964, trainings for college students at Shaw University and Miami of Ohio, each June, college age servant leader interns from all CDF Freedom Schools program sites participate in the Ella Baker Child Policy Training Institute, a national training workshop, at the historic CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, TN and University of Tennessee at Knoxville to learn how to deliver the IRC, develop their teaching skills and build awareness of challenges facing their community.

Enroll a Child

Your child could be one of the over 125,000 children who have had a CDF Freedom Schools experience since 1995.

The CDF Freedom Schools program works hard to ensure each child is equipped with the necessary skills to succeed in life. Our program boosts student motivation to read, and generates a more positive attitude towards learning and connects the needs of children and families to the resources of their communities.

If interested in enrolling a child in the CDF Freedoms Schools program please check our listing of CDF Freedom Schools sites and contact information.

Serve with CDF Freedom Schools®

Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® Project Director Position Description

In close collaboration with the sponsor partner executive directors, project directors will assist in securing space for the site. Sponsor Organizations operating more than one CDF Freedom Schools site will have at least one project director who coordinates flow of the resources, facilitates activities among the local sponsor and program sites, and communicates with CDF. The project director should have strong leadership skills with empathy for children and their parents. He or she should be familiar with the culture and dynamics of the community, committed to the goals of the CDF Freedom Schools program, and able to work collaboratively with all program constituents.

Responsibilities

  • Maintain regular communication with Children’s Defense Fund’s national staff.
  • Recruit, hire, and manage local program staff.
  • Coordinate all logistics for summer program operation in partnership with sponsor executive director.
  • Supervise site coordinators and servant leader interns day-to-day.
  • Coordinate arrangements for national and local staff training.
  • Meet weekly with the site coordinators and hold weekly meetings with all staff – site coordinators and servant leader interns.
  • Organize a local community advisory committee or other organized community body in support of the CDF Freedom Schools program.
  • First-year project directors must attend the Orientation and Training.

Qualifications

  • Must be at least 21 years of age and have completed at least one year of college
  •  Experience coordinating logistics for a literacy-intensive, high-energy summer program for children
  • Experience managing large groups of children, college-age young adults, and parents
  • Solid commitment to children’s advocacy and enthusiasm for the CDF Freedom Schools program
  • Ability to motivate others and attention to detail
  • Interest in and ability to work as part of an intergenerational team
  • Strong appreciation and understanding of individual cultural history and the willingness to be open and respectful of all cultures
  • Willingness to strive for excellence in all areas and ability to think critically and analytically
  • Exhibit positive behavior and attitude; model a mature and professional demeanor; possess excellent written and verbal skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills and commitment to the ethics of good character, humility, and servant leadership
  • Current voter registration (as eligible)
    • Authorization for background check for criminal and child protective findings

Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® Site Coordinator Position Description

The site coordinator should be experienced in working with large groups of children and in partnerships with young adults. He or she must be responsible, energetic, able to think on his or her feet, well-organized, and a strong role model. He or she may have worked in the past as a CDF Freedom Schools servant leader intern or in a similar position. The site coordinator should have strong leadership skills with empathy for children and their parents. He or she should be familiar with the culture and dynamics of the community, committed to the goals of the CDF Freedom Schools program, and able to work collaboratively with all program constituents.

Responsibilities

  • Manage the day-to-day activities of the site and ensure servant leader interns have necessary materials and supplies for the classroom and students.
  • Provide guidance, support, encouragement, and constructive feedback to servant leader interns.
  • Maintain team spirit among site staff and conduct debrief sessions at the end of each day. During the debrief sessions, provide technical assistance and feedback to the servant leader interns on all aspects of their work.
  • Design and coordinate parent workshops and other parental involvement initiatives, or assist the parent coordinator or other designee.
  • Work with the project director to keep the lines of communication open between parents, staff, and sponsor organizations.
  • Ensure responsible management of servant leader interns employed by his/her local program site while at CDF Freedom Schools National Training in June.
  • Attend Orientation and Training if new to the site coordinator position and the National Training.

Qualifications

  • Must be at least 21 years of age and have completed at least one year of college
  • Experience managing large groups of children, college-age young people, and parents
  • Solid commitment to children’s advocacy and enthusiasm for the CDF Freedom Schools program
  • Ability to motivate others and work as part of an intergenerational team
  • Strong appreciation and understanding of individual cultural history and the willingness to be open and respectful of all cultures
  • Willingness to strive for excellence in all areas and ability to think critically and analytically
  • Exhibit positive behavior and attitude; model a mature and professional demeanor; possess excellent written and verbal skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills and commitment to the ethics of good character, humility, and servant leadership
  • Current voter registration (as eligible by law)
  • Authorization for background check for criminal and child protective findings

Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® Servant Leader Intern Position Description

College-age young people and recent college graduates play a key role in the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program as servant leader interns. CDF Freedom Schools servant leader interns are responsible for the front-line care and nurturing of the children. Using the Integrated Reading Curriculum, they serve as facilitators in the classroom and as leaders of parent workshops and community outreach activities.

Responsibilities

  • Deliver the Integrated Reading Curriculum to a class of no more than ten students for 6–8 weeks during the summer months, according to the standards developed by the Children's Defense Fund and the local program sponsor.
  • Set up and break down his/her classroom space, including securing and organizing the appropriate materials.
  • Collaborate with staff to establish and maintain a supportive and structured environment for the children entrusted to their care.
  • Serve as a Harambee! leader each day of program operation.
  • Serve as a leader of afternoon activities and other special events; chaperone field trips.
  • Participate fully in the National Training. (1st, 2nd and 3rd year servant leader interns only).

Qualifications

  • Must be at least 19-30 years of age, have completed at least one year of college, and have plans to complete the college degree
  • Maintain or have graduated with at least a 3.0 GPA
  • Experience managing large groups of children, college-age young people, and parents
  • Solid commitment to children’s advocacy and enthusiasm for the CDF Freedom Schools program
  • Ability to motivate others and work as part of an intergenerational team
  • Strong appreciation and understanding of individual cultural history and the willingness to be open and respectful of all cultures
  • Willingness to strive for excellence in all areas and ability to think critically and analytically
  • Exhibit positive behavior and attitude; model a mature and professional demeanor; possess excellent written and verbal skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills and commitment to the ethics of good character, humility, and servant leadership
  • Current voter registration (as eligible by law)
  • Authorization for background check for criminal and child protective findings

Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® Ella Baker Trainer Position Description

An Ella Baker Trainer is a Servant Leader selected by the Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools® national staff to assist in training local CDF Freedom Schools staff. This position reports to the CDF Freedom Schools Ella Baker Trainer Coordinator.

Nature and Scope

The CDF Freedom Schools program is a literacy-rich summer and after-school program developed to serve children in communities where quality academic enrichment programming is rare, cost-prohibitive or non-existent. The CDF Freedom Schools program features a model Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC) for reading enrichment, youth leadership development, cultural enrichment, parent empowerment, civic engagement, and social action. In partnership with schools, churches, community-based organizations, and colleges and universities, through the CDF Freedom Schools, the Children's Defense Fund boosts children’s motivation to read and generates positive attitudes towards learning, while connecting the needs of children and families to the resources of the community. A key goal of the CDF Freedom Schools program is leadership development: identifying, training, nurturing, linking, mobilizing and empowering a new generation of effective, young servant leaders on behalf of children. CDF Freedom Schools programs are staffed primarily by college-aged young adults who are committed to active lives of leadership and service for children. The CDF Freedom Schools program supports CDF’s Leave No Child Behind® mission to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.

Responsibilities

Working under the supervision of the Ella Baker Trainer Coordinator, an Ella Baker Trainer will:

  • Attend and carry out assigned duties for the required CDF Freedom Schools trainings and meetings scheduled from January to December.
  • Adhere to policies that address travel, decorum, dress codes, loyalty, responsibilities, etc.
  • Communicate regularly with the Ella Baker Trainer Coordinator via email, telephone and the CDF Freedom Schools website.
  • Submit requested information to the Ella Baker Trainer Coordinator in a timely fashion.
  • Work independently and with the Ella Baker Trainer team to fully prepare for all CDF Freedom Schools trainings and meetings.
  • Compile helpful training ideas and resources into an Ella Baker Trainer Training Portfolio.
  • Train servant leader interns and local CDF Freedom Schools staff on the delivery of the Integrated Reading Curriculum and other key components of the CDF Freedom School program.
  • Collaborate with the national CDF Freedom Schools staff to establish, maintain, and facilitate supportive and structured training environments for local CDF Freedom Schools sites.
  • Facilitate team-building activities and workshops for servant leader interns and site coordinators/site administration from local CDF Freedom Schools sites.
  • Serve as an extension of the CDF Freedom Schools national staff and an advocate for the Leave No Child Behind movement.
  • Participate in Children's Defense Fund events when necessary.
  • Complete other duties assigned as requested by the national CDF Freedom Schools staff

This position involves some weekend travel and a two-week stay in June for the CDF Freedom Schools meetings and trainings.

Qualifications

  • Matriculate at a college or university OR be a college graduate
  • Maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Experience as a servant leader intern at a CDF Freedom Schools site (two years or more experience is preferred; at least one year of service as a servant leader intern in addition to another year of service as a site coordinator or project director is acceptable)
  • Strong interpersonal skills and commitment to the character, humility and servant leadership ethics of Ella Baker
  • Ability to facilitate large group sessions and workshops
  • A solid commitment to children’s advocacy and social justice
  • Critical/analytical and creative thinker
  • Responsible behavior and positive attitude
  • Ability to work with the CDF Freedom Schools team in a collaborative manner
  • Strong written and verbal skills
  • Commitment to excellence in all areas of work
  • Registered voter
  • Authorization for background check

Compensation

Ella Baker Trainers receive a stipend upon successful completion of service to the CDF Freedom Schools program. To apply for this position, review the Ella Baker Trainer application instructions.

CDF Freedom Schools® Scholars

The greatest threat to America’s economic and military security comes from no foreign enemy but from our own failure to invest in healthy and educated children. Research shows that only 48 percent of poor children are ready to learn at age five, compared to 75 percent of children from families with moderate and high incomes. Seventy-five percent of 17- to 24-year-olds are not eligible for military service due to poor literacy levels and health-related problems.

 
 
 
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National Day of Social Action

"If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it.  You have an obligation to change it.  You just do it one step at a time."
- CDF President Marian Wright Edelman

  

Each year, thousands of children and teens from CDF Freedom Schools sites nationwide participate in CDF Freedom Schools® National Day of Social Action. The social action and civic engagement component of the CDF Freedom Schools model teaches youth to engage in community service and social justice advocacy.  Participants take part in a variety of actions including visiting and writing letters to elected officials, joining together for marches and rallies and public education activities.

Children learn to apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they become more responsible members of their communities. Servant leader interns encourage the children not only to explore the problems facing their communities, but also to become active in working toward solutions.

Data and Resources

Ending Child Poverty Now

For the first time, this report shows that by investing an additional 2 percent of the federal budget into existing programs and policies that increase employment, make work pay, and ensure children’s basic needs are met, the nation could reduce child poverty by 60 percent and lift 6.6 million children out of poverty.

January 9, 2015

CDF Freedom Schools Funders Initiative Flyer

Funders Initiative – The CDF Freedom Schools ® Funders Initiative is a n intensive, one - day professional development and outreach seminar designed to provide investors, philanthropist s , social entrepreneurs, K - 12 educators , community organizers , members of the business community, and CDF Freedom Schools program alum ni w ith an opportunity to evaluate this dynamic program, and strategi ze how to seed and sustain it in local communities throughout the country.

April 17, 2013

CDF's Priorities for ESEA Reauthorization

CDF's Priorities for ESEA Reauthorization

March 30, 2011

Rainbow Dreams Educational Foundation

This power point presentation includes a slide show of the Rainbow Dreams Educational Foundation Freedom Schools site located in Las Vegas, Nevada. The slide show includes pictures of staff, the site’s afternoon activities, special guests and community partners, and scholars that attended the program.

January 21, 2010

Supporting and Improving the Child Welfare Workforce: A Review of Program Improvement Plans (PIPs) and Recommendations for Strengthening the Child and Family Service Reviews (CFSRs)

Supporting and Improving the Child Welfare Workforce: A Review of Program Improvement Plans and Recommendations for Strengthening the Child and Family Service Reviews

January 15, 2009

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