The Early Years
Allen County Local Education Fund (ACLEF) began in 1991 with a desegregation lawsuit filed by the Parents for Quality Education (PQE) against the Fort Wayne Community Schools. The settlement negotiated between the parties provided funds for educational improvements in the district’s schools.
The Journal-Gazette editorialized on the idea of establishing a Local Education Fund (LEF) in Fort Wayne and sent materials to the Lincoln National Corporation for consideration. At that point a committee of community leaders was appointed (led by Ian Rolland) to investigate the possibility of establishing a LEF in Fort Wayne.
With a positive first response from this initial group, the Lincoln National Corporation presented the idea formally to the community’s Corporate Council. The Corporate Council agreed to initial funding for ACLEF. The agency’s first director Anne Hoover was then hired and the doors were officially opened to “mobilize community and business support for bold, promising, innovative education programs.” Under Hoover’s direction ACLEF made an impact by providing mini-grants to teachers, parent groups, and community agencies to advance public school student learning.
The Growth of Project READS
In 1994, Rosetta Moses-Hill became ACLEF’s second Executive Director. At that point the agency shifted towards program provision and focused its attention and resources on an early (Kindergarten through third grade) literacy initiative entitled Project READS (Reading, Early Assistance in Developing Skills). Over the next three years, ACLEF channeled approximately $1,000,000 of public support to the four public school districts in Allen County with the goal of helping all children read at grade level by the completion of third grade. At that same time more than 500 teachers were trained in “best practice” instructional methods for teaching students to read. Overall, more than 15,000 students benefitted from this project during that time period.
In February of 1997, ACLEF launched Phase II of Project READS by turning its attention and resources to establishing a support network that linked schools, families, and the communities to support children learning to read. Eighteen (18) literacy sites were opened the first school year, where community volunteers tutored k-3rd grade students in reading.
The Development of Parent Literacy Enrichment and ITT Engagement
In 1998, ACLEF developed a curriculum for and implemented a countywide Parent Literacy Enrichment (PLE) program. The program initially targeted the parents of first grade Reading Recovery students. The objective of the program was to assist parents in understanding how they could work best with teachers to support their children in learning and maintaining the skills necessary to read at grade level.
In 1999, the program was extended to the parents of second grade students, and the curriculum was modified to include writing development, a skill reciprocal with reading.
In the late 1990’s ACLEF began working with ITT to provide funding to support innovative math, science and technology programming in all public schools in Allen County. The ITT Excellence in Education Awards Program provided classroom grants to support teachers in their efforts to teach math, science and technology.
During the 2001/2002 school year, curriculum was developed to offer a Kindergarten level training program for parents. Soon thereafter ACLEF also offered a special one-night class focused on best literacy practices that parents can use with their children to the parents of children in the Summer Clubhouse program.
In 2000, ACLEF was named as a lead participant in a 5 million dollar three-year community wide initiative funded by the Lilly Endowment. This initiative (CAPE Grant) was entitled Everybody Reads. ACLEF’s portion of this grant was to expand Project READS by increasing participation in the program and adding significant new in-school services such as teacher development (which was called Balanced Literacy). Balanced Literacy classes were offered through IPFW, Taylor and St. Francis.
During this time ACLEF’s growth was enhanced through an AmeriCorps grant. This grant allowed additional staff to be hired to help foster the growth of the agencies programming.
This initiative also brought ACLEF into a close, collaborative working relationship with other community service and non-profit organizations whose common goal was to drive all of Allen County to embrace the importance of early childhood literacy. The Everybody Reads initiative also opened ACLEF’s services up for the first time to non-public schools thus changing the face of ACLEF to a true county wide agency that could now service the early literacy needs of all young learners across Allen County regardless of how and where they were being taught.
While this was intended to be a three-year initiative unspent funding was available to the agency into 2005. These unspent funds became the main source of funding for the agency and allowed the agency to purchase large quantities of books to grow our inventory during the 2004/2005 time frame.
Our Recent History
In July 2002, Brian White became the agency’s third Executive Director. At this time ACLEF’S 2 main programs Project READS and Parent Literacy Enrichment continued to grow as true countywide programs. ACLEF’s focus from serving only center city children to all children across Allen County became clearer. At this time ACLEF also shifted its focus from providing food to families as an incentive for program completion to the provision of grade level appropriate books as an incentive.
In July 2004 ACLEF legally changed its name to the Allen County Education Partnership (ACEP). This name change occurred in part as a response to the agencies change from a granting agency to a service provider and because the agency now served all children and not just children in public schools as it truly no longer qualified as an LEF whose focus was only on public school children.
Through the ensuing years ACEP continued working closely with local school districts to hone its programming ensuring that it continued to reach those children most in need of early literacy assistance.
After a couple of years of planning 2009 ACEP officially became the lead agency in the Learn United initiative in 2009. Through this initiative ACEP worked to establish and in-school literacy tutoring program that would complement our after school Project READs program. Due to changes in the community, ACEP parted with the initiative in early 2011.