VERIZON OPTIONS INITIATIVE
Academic achievement is grounded in literacy, yet many students in California struggle in school because they do not possess basic English language skills. Based on the Gevirtz Research Center’s Family Literacy Model, the Verizon OPTIONS Initiative was designed to meet the multiple literacy needs of families in the Goleta Union School District, particularly the Isla Vista community. This outreach initiative was built on existing relationships among school, community, and university partners to provide a value-added family literacy program. In 2003, the Verizon Foundation awarded a $160,000 grant to the Gevirtz Research Center and its UC Santa Barbara collaborators (the Engaging Latino Communities in Education (ENLACE Y Avance) Program, the Parents, Children and Computers Project, and the Community Affairs Board’s Literacy Program).The Isla Vista Youth Projects also joined this partnership through the integration of a school readiness component, funded by First Five of Santa Barbara County.
The Verizon OPTIONS Initiative included adult English language development, school readiness for pre-school children, computer literacy, tutoring, mentoring, parent leadership, and involvement in schools. This widely disseminated project was very well received by the community, and many of its practices continue to sustain themselves well beyond the conclusion of the research.
The project objectives were to:
Parents and Preschoolers Learn Together
Gevirtz Research Center Family Literacy and
School Readiness Option:
The Gevirtz Research Center implemented a highly successful, integrated Family Literacy Project Model, at Isla Vista Elementary School. The Isla Vista site offered three weekly morning classes for parents and their children. English language development was provided to adults. Computer instruction was incorporated into class time, and parent advocacy sessions followed class time at selected intervals. Simultaneously, a school readiness component assured that the young members of the class (ages 2-5) received academic and social attention.
Parents, Children and Computers Project (PCCP) Option:
The Parents, Children, and Computers Option was a computer literacy class that helped parents learn how to use computers, software, the Internet, and related technologies to publish articles and stories related to the interests of family members. Children participated in homework and other learning activities, mentored by university students, and joined their parents in computer learning and publishing activities.
Community Affairs Board Corps Option:
This program placed university students as tutors/mentors in homes and elementary classrooms.
Engaging Latino Communities for Education (ENLACE) Option:
ENLACE y Avance worked to increase opportunities for Latino students to enter and complete college and to boost the involvement of Latino parents in local schools through mentoring relationships and family advocacy. Parents participated in the ENLACE Padres Adelante program, a 16-week, bilingual leadership training program where parents acquired a deeper knowledge of the local school system and learned about parental and student rights and responsibilities.
The research and evaluation of the Verizon OPTIONS Initiative was conducted by Dr. Hsui-Zu Ho and Dr. Carol Dixon. The study investigated the effectiveness of the various components of the Verizon OPTIONS Initiative. It also examined how the consortium of partners impacted families who have taken advantage of multiple services of the project. This was a mixed-method study that incorporated both qualitative and quantitative methodology. Qualitative methods included: videotapes, field notes, interviews, open-ended evaluations, and focus group analyses. Quantitative methods included an extensive battery of pre-post assessments and surveys.
Participants in the OPTIONS Initiative included over 350 English Language Learners and their families from two participating local school districts. The students were preschool age and K-6 recruited by the individual service programs, classroom teachers’ recommendations, school flyers, and community-based organizations. The majority of the students qualified for free and reduced-price lunch.
The OPTIONS Initiative program partners were able to provide comprehensive, value-added services that had a greater impact on families than any one program could have had alone. The study found that adult participants increased their levels of English and computer literacy. They also developed a greater knowledge of the school system, resources available to children, and strategies for helping their children learn.
As a result of the project, children in the school readiness program developed emergent literacy skills, and their parents were more actively engaged in literacy activities both at school and at home. Parents also took a leadership role in advocating for their children. University tutors learned the importance of community service and many expressed an interest in becoming teachers. The OPTIONS Initiative was highly successful in both the implementation of important, effective services and brought to the forefront the multiple needs of families and organizations in the community.