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On Feb. 3, the District 65 School Board discussed two alternate proposals, Plan A and Plan B, for a 2014 summer school program. Both plans would provide a six-week program, compared to the four-week program last year, and both would continue or build on partnerships with Foundation 65, McGaw YMCA and Youth Organization Umbrella (Y.O.U.).

Students would be identified for the program by “a combination of risk factors,” including low-income status, whether the student has an intervention plan, and English proficiency.

The goal is to reduce what is called “summer learning loss,” a loss of academic skills that students from low-income households typically experience during the summer months. Studies show that a child from a low-income family typically loses two months of reading skills in the summer. By contrast families from middle- or upper-income families typically increase their academic knowledge by one month during the summer, because they participate in camps, trips to museums and other enrichment activities. Some researchers say that summer learning loss is a significant contributor to the achievement gap.

Plans A and B

Assistant Superintendent Sue Schultz said Plan A “focuses efforts on reducing summer learning loss in the critical early grades.” It would provide a half-day program for students entering kindergarten, and no program for rising first-graders. For rising second- and third-graders, it would build on McGaw Y’s summer reading program which has provided literacy instruction in the morning and recreational and enrichment activities in the afternoon.

McGaw Y’s summer program last year served a total of 100 at-risk students entering first-, second- and third-grades. Not only did the program eliminate summer learning loss, but students on average improved in reading ability by almost three months during the summer, as measured by pre- and post-testing on STAR, a computer-adaptive test.  

The District plans to partner with McGaw Y to provide its reading program to 120 rising second-graders who attend Oakton, Washington and Dawes schools, and a modified version of the program to 100 rising third-graders from across the District. In each case, District 65 teachers would instruct students in either literacy or both literacy and math in the morning; and McGaw Y would provide recreation and enrichment activities in the afternoon.

To reach rising second-graders who do not attend Oakton, Washington or Dawes, Foundation 65 will continue to offer its summer reading program to approximately 120 rising rising second-graders from across the District. In this program students are provided books to read at home, with periodic follow-up by teachers.

Plan A also provides a program for 200 special-education students and 45 English-language learners who are entering grades K-7. The program would be half-day, except for one grade of special education students who would be provided recreational and mentoring services through the City’s “Camp Adventure” program.

Plan B would cast a wider net, and provide a program for students entering grades K-7. One drawback of Plan B is it would require 128 teachers and 25 teachers’ aides. “We will not be able to staff that with District 65 teachers based on our history of hiring teachers over the years,” said Ms. Schultz.

In addition, it is assumed under both plans that Y.O.U. will provide 200 third- through eighth-graders with its summer learning program, which extends for nine weeks. Y.O.U. is asking that the District provide $50,000 to enable it to serve 50 additional youth who attend schools not served by Y.O.U. in its after-school program.

Assuming the District provides Y.O.U. funding to expand its summer program, Plan A would serve approximately 965 students at a cost to the District of about $420,000. Plan B would serve approximately 1,565 students at a cost of about $990,000.

In addition, Foundation 65, the McGaw Y and Y.O.U. would be funding a substantial portion of the services they provide.

Board Views

Board members discussed the best way to use the summer school program to reduce summer learning loss and address the achievement gap, within budgetary constraints.

If the District implemented Plan B, Claudia Garrison asked, “Would there be an immediate return on our investment to whittle down the achievement gap?”

Ms. Fogelberg replied, “I think what you would see realistically are the same results we saw with the [McGaw] Y. … You would see just like they were able to show, months gained. So you might see a two-month gain or a three-month gain. … What we don’t know is if that gain would sustain itself until the following spring when they take another assessment. That’s what we hope for.”

Ms. Fogelberg added that administrators compared how students who participated in the McGaw Y summer program did on the Fall 2013 Developmentally Reading Assessment (DRA) with how they did about five months earlier on the Spring 2013 DRA. “We did see kids maintain or in some cases grow,” Ms. Fogelberg said. “We saw very little slippage. What that means is we were able to move forward with instruction as if we didn’t lose anything [over the summer]. I’m confident we could do that.”

“We have this achievement gap,” Ms. Garrison said, “and we want as many weapons to reduce it as much as we can as fast as we can.”

Board President Tracy Quattrocki noted that both plans proposed a half-day program for kindergartners. With respect to rising first-graders, Plan A provided no program at all; and Plan B proposed sending books home with the students, using Foundation 65’s approach.

“We’ve been spending a lot of time talking about earlier and earlier interventions and trying to get students up to grade level by third grade,” said Ms. Quattrocki. “Is there a reason that we don’t start looking at full-day or longer school-based programs for these kids in kindergarten and first grade in the same way we do after that? … It seems in my mind the interventions should be earlier and more intense.”

Ms. Fogelberg replied that the District’s experience is not many families with rising first-graders send their kids to summer school.

Candance Chow proposed starting with Plan A and adding things. She suggested providing rising first-graders with Foundation 65’s summer reading program, and offering a summer program for sixth-graders which could then be evaluated and possibly expanded to other grade levels if it were successful.

Ms. Shultz said if budgetary constraints required the Board to choose between expanding Plan A to provide a program for rising first-graders or sixth-graders, she would recommend going with the rising first-graders.

Richard Rykhus said he supported providing the summer reading program to rising first-graders. He also said he would support expanding the half-day summer program for students with an IEP to a full-day program for rising second-, third- and fourth-graders. He said students with an IEP “had the lowest level of achievement” shown on the 2013 Achievement Report, and it would be appropriate to target that group of students.

The Board reached consensus that administrators could proceed with beginning the process to hire teachers to staff Plan A, which focuses on the earlier grade levels. The Board decided to wait until they had a chance to review the District’s financial projections at a Board Finance Committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 10 to decide what additions, if any, to make to the summer program outlined in Plan A.