Executive Summary

The Mirabeau Family Learning Center, Inc. (“MFLC”), a 501(c)3 organization, was formed to revitalize communities through workforce housing in conjunction with the operation of learning centers for persons with low to moderate income. MFLC’s mission is to strengthen individual, family, and neighborhood self-reliance through education, training, support services, and workforce housing. MFLC’s programs are designed to increase learner capacity, enhance self-efficacy and self-reliance, and to encourage the use of those skills for continual development of the community.

What is the Rationale?
MFLC takes as its starting point its participation in the 1988 study commissioned by the Ford Foundation entitled “Toward a More perfect Union: Basic Skills, Poor Families, and Our Economic Future.”  That study demonstrated a strong statistical link between poverty in urban neighborhoods and the lack of basic skills and education. One important conclusion of that study is that the cycle of poverty for many individuals can be broken through devoting “learning” space in assisted housing. Second chance learning has been shown to improve functional and academic skills for residents and others. Functional skills are those skills individuals use in their day to day lives, whether at home, in the work place or in community activities. Academic skills are those which traditional schools teach, including mathematics, reading and comprehension, language, and science. A principal objective of MFLC is to elevate the functional and the academic skills of individuals who make use of the MFLC’s learning centers. As a result, these individuals will become more employable, better able to advance to higher education, and more adept at responding to the needs and exigencies of family life, the work place and the community.

A History of Results
Pre-Katrina, MFLC served over 1200 individuals and 1000 families. MFLC developed and managed 448 units of housing serving low- to moderate-income families and developed another 15 single-family homes through the Youth Build program. Among the many success stories, MFLC achieved the following:
  • MFLC’s pre-Katrina GED programs averaged grade gains of 2.08 grades in 60 days
  • A random sample of 57 participant enrolled in the MFLC GED program prior to the storm indicated that 22 went on to college, 12 qualified for vocational/technical school, 7 earned a GED, 8 achieved grade gains, 3 found work, and 5 transferred to other programs.
  • Since 1997, MFLC has had a completion rate of approximately 75% in the Find Work programs and of those approximately 93% remain employed.
  • MFLC also had a parent participation rate of 80% or more.

Recognized for Excellence
MFLC has been recognized for its comprehensive approach to ameliorating the problems of poverty, crime and associated despair by:  The University of Texas, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, Partners for Livable Communities, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, United States Congress, State Agencies as well as Public and Private Sponsors.

MFLC Programs and Services – Post Katrina

MFLC’s mission has been strengthened by the resolve to rebuild and serve low- and moderate-income families in their greatest time of need for quality, affordable workforce housing and support services. MFLC is located on the reconstructed Filmore Parc Apartment campus, which provides workforce housing to 164 households.

To add additional value to its programming, beginning in 2010, MFLC has partnered with The Sisters of Notre Dame to re-establish MFLC’s programs. MFLC provides a broad range of services through a Comprehensive Service Model (CSM).  This comprehensive and coordinated delivery of services is based on a whole person/whole family concept, removing the multiple barriers facing families in achieving self-sufficiency.

CSM is based on the concept that personal development is the core to building self-reliance and self-efficacy and that this is best achieved through education as preparation for lifelong learning. To this end, MFLC’s BrainPower™ Program (BPP) is designed to attract a variety of learners and is the foundation for all of the programs offered at MFLC.

BrainPower™ Program

An individuals’ ability to process information greatly impacts the effectiveness of education. However, most education reform efforts to date have focused on academics, believing that learning capacity could not be significantly changed.  Extensive research and clinical success has proven that learning capacity can indeed be significantly improved.  The BrainPower™ Program consists of two programs:

  • The Sound Analysis I & II Skill Set program enables 1st and 2nd grade students to develop foundational skills which are critical to reading.  This web based program, along with mentoring and coaching, gives the students a strong foundation for their reading program. Students use the program 4-5 days a week for 20 minutes each day.
  • BrainSkills™ is a web-based program designed to create an affordable and accessible online version of the core cognitive skill training to learners of all levels. Unlike programs that only focus on tutoring to meet the current academic challenge, MFLC’s BrainPower™ Program combines BrainSkills™ cognitive training tools with one-on-one support provided by a Personal Brain Trainer and does not to be repeated.  The BPP is a long-term investment in an individual’s ability to process, integrate and utilize information. The skills mastered will last a lifetime.  BrainSkills™ focuses on non-academic training procedures that quickly strengthen the brain’s core mental abilities that, if overlooked, can create lifelong problems.   

BrainSkills™ strengthens the following key cognitive skills that are critical for learning.
  • Attention Skills: The ability to attend to incoming information.
  • Memory: The ability to store and recall information. Includes long-term and short-term/working memory.
  • Logic and Reasoning: The ability to reason, form concepts, and solve problems using unfamiliar information or novel procedures.
  • Auditory Processing: The ability to analyze, blend, and segment sounds.
  • Visual Processing: The ability to perceive, analyze, and think in visual images.
  • Processing Speed: The ability to perform simple or complex cognitive tasks quickly.

Parents are also critical to the success of the BrainPower™ Program.  Parents of school age students agree to participate in periodic parent sessions to discuss the progress of their child.  

Incredible Results!
In the 2011-2012 school year, the SND and a local university validated this research in a Central City school achieving remarkable results in Oral Reading Fluency in the first grade:  83% of those tested performed at or above the instructional level; including 55% who performed above the instructional level.  Eight of nine students in the fourth grade and 12/12 students in the sixth grade passed the LEAP test after three months of training.  These were astounding results for this school.

The BrainSkills™ program was administered in North Louisiana to 60 fourth graders who had not passed the LEAP exam. Astoundingly, after completing the BrainSkills™ program and retaking the LEAP exam 56 out of the 60 students passed! The National Science Foundation has recently made a grant to provide the majority of the funding for a study to examine how cognitive skills training can help high school students improve their learning ability and physically change the brain.

Each BPP participant will receive a cognitive assessment to ascertain their learning skill level and develop a customized individual learning plan to achieve their personal learning goals. MFLC affectionately called the “little red schoolhouse” is fully equipped with the latest educational technology to support the BrainPower™ Program and its staff is trained to guide each student successfully through their personalized program.

Return on Investment
The current average cost of educating a child from Kindergarten through 12th Grade is $102,401 (not including costs for tutoring).  BPP costs an average of $750 for skills that last a lifetime and does not have to be repeated, as tutoring for subject mastery does.

After-School Enrichment Program
Mirabeau Family Learning Center’s After-School Enrichment Program (ASEP) provides supplemental social and educational experiences for school-age children from the greater New Orleans community. The program, produced in collaboration with The Sisters of Notre Dame, aims to alleviate some of the pressures of parenting by providing school-age children with educational support during out-of-school time. ASEP participants range from ages 5 through 17 and grades K to 12. The program will operate from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, Monday through Thursday, mid-August through mid-June.     

School Outreach Program
MFLC has implemented BPP in a few New Orleans schools.  During the 2013-2014 academic year 216 students are participating in the program, and in the 2011-2013 academic years over 273 students participated.  Achievements were noted by gains in testing outcomes and increased confidence as students advance through the program. MFLC is looking to expand this School Outreach Program.

The Sisters of Notre Dame

The Sisters of Notre Dame (SND) is an international congregation founded in 1850 with over 163 years of educational heritage. Today, SND collaborates with lay colleagues in 18 countries on five continents, bringing the transformative power of education to new generations.  The Sisters of Notre Dame provide an environment of educational excellence for the transformation of individuals and society.

In 2009, several Sisters were introduced to the LearningRx and BrainSkills™ programs, which focus on improving learning capacity, otherwise known as cognitive development.  Impressed by their findings, the Sisters began working closely with BrainSkills™ founder Gary Smith to make these resources available to under-resourced families. In 2010, a few Sisters were sent to New Orleans to begin collaborating with MFLC and to support the integration of the BrainSkills™ curriculum across MFLC’s programs.  The Sisters are Master Certified Teachers who collectively have 104 years of experience in the classroom and leading schools.  The Sisters are trained to implement the BrainSkills™ program. Two of the Sisters are former school principals with experience in under-resourced schools. Combined they have over 60 years of experience in school administration.  Currently three Sisters are living at Filmore Parc and working with MFLC, having re-established the After-School Enrichment Program, and are presently implementing the program in area schools.

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