Elinor Ross CDF Freedom School

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What is Elinor Ross CDF Freedom School?

The Elinor Ross CDF Freedom School is one of nearly 200 Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools®. 

We are a six-week summer enrichment program with three hours of reading and two hours of high-energy enrichment activities per day. The Freedom School model works to foster love of learning, motivate children to read, and build students' beliefs that they can make a difference in the world around them.

The Elinor Ross CDF Freedom School is FREE for the children who attend. Eligible students—we call them scholars—are those currently in kindergarten through 5th grade. We create a fun learning environment in every classroom where the child-to-adult ratio is 10:1. Scholars receive two meals and one snack per day, one field trip per week, and a variety of fun and educational afternoon activities.

Our research-based curriculum uses culturally-responsive children’s books and instruction that aim to foster in children a sense of connection to the stories they read. Research has demonstrated that a majority of Freedom Schools participants maintain or improve reading levels, and our own research demonstrates that Freedom School scholars are more engaged with reading after the summer program. Freedom Schools successfully address summer reading loss and foster a love of reading in students who participate.

Research indicates that in 2017–2018, more than 80% of Freedom School scholars maintained or increased by an average of 10 months their reading levels. Students reading below grade level before starting the program showed the greatest gains in their reading levels. 

In addition to offering high-quality academic enrichment, the Ross CDF Freedom School endeavors to support children and families in the areas of parent and family involvement, civic engagement, social action, and health. 

The adults at Freedom Schools, our next generation of leaders, are college students who undergo extensive national training in research-based strategies proven to be effective at increasing achievement and school engagement. We refer to Freedom School instructors as Servant Leader Interns (SLIs), and the knowledge and experience they receive during national training prepare the staff well to love, support, and set high expectations for children to increase their confidence. 

Elinor Ross


Very special thanks to Dr. Elinor Ross
for her legacy of supporting reading
and literacy programs for children
in the Upper Cumberland.

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