SSL Board President Carla Koren Receives Jefferson Award

CBS San Francisco: SSL’s Carla Koren receives the Jefferson Award in recognition of her work with Super Stars Literacy.

HAYWARD (KPIX 5) – According to the National Assessment on Educational Progress, only 34 percent of American 4th graders can read at their grade level. Students who can’t read proficiently by the 4th grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

One East Bay woman has made it her mission to turn those numbers around, and she is starting in her own community. Carla Koren is a successful financial advisor at Morgan Stanley in Oakland, but when she is not reading numbers in financial reports, she’s passionate about the ABCs. Carla helped create the non-profit Super Stars Literacy, an in-class and after-school reading program for kindergarten through second graders in low-income communities.

“Most kids, like the children we serve, come into kindergarten probably three years behind a child who lives in a more affluent or middle class neighborhood,” Carla said. “This is something we can fix!”

To level the playing field, Super Stars Literacy offers extended learning time in the schools. Classroom teachers refer kids who need extra help.

“The only way to move the dial with education is to start young,” Carla explained. “The younger you start, the easier it is to make a change, and the investment is so much less when you are starting with K,1,2.”

It started with a partnership at one elementary school in Oakland. Thanks to a grant from AmeriCorps, Super Stars Literacy now has 28 teachers in seven schools helping over 400 children. Harder School is one of three elementary schools in Hayward that partners with Super Stars Literacy. Kids not only get extra reading help in the classroom, but every day after school for two to three hours.

“I like Super Stars because I’m learning more English,” said student Andrea.

Asra Ziauddin is one of the AmeriCorps teachers. “I think, for them, extra exposure to English is definitely very helpful. For them to gain that really concrete reading base, (they) really thrive later in life,” said Asra.

Carla, who serves as Board Chair, hopes to expand Super Stars to more schools. “Our second grade class started in the middle of kindergarten in development. And now they are already a grade ahead in just six months,” said Carla. “It’s not magic – we can do it!”

Super Stars Literacy did a recent survey of Bay Area communities and elementary schools that could benefit from their early intervention program and found there were 22,000 children who could use this resource.