In summer 2017, CDF Freedom Schools sponsor partners served over 12,225 children at 173 program sites in 89 cities and 27 states including Washington, D.C. Since 1995, over 137,000 children and families have been touched by the CDF Freedom Schools program experience. More than 16,000 college students and young adult staff 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.