John Price, assistant superintendent of schools, and Joyce Bartz, assistant superintendent of special services, laid out their recommendations for District 65’s summer school program at the School Board’s meeting on Dec. 11.

Some key priorities of the program are to focus on literacy and/or social emotional learning, to support at-risk students in the earliest grades, and to enhance family engagement. Administrators also plan to measure the effectiveness of various parts of the overall program and to partner with community organizations.

Mr. Price said the recommendations reflect “a commitment to programs that work and a commitment to programs that we have assessed and looked at deeply and wish to expand.” He added, “There’s a focus on a couple of partnerships across our City that we believe have had the greatest impact and the greatest potential for impact.”

General Education Progamming

The summer program will serve a total of about 630 general education students through a variety of programs, which differ, primarily based on grade level.

An At-Home Reading Program: Administrators propose to serve 290 rising first, second and third graders in a Summer Reading Program that was pioneered several years ago by Foundation 65. The program is an at-home reading program for students who received supplementary reading support during the school year. During the summer, the child’s teacher prepares a selection of books that will be mailed to the student’s home, and the teacher will periodically communicate with the student about what he or she is learning. Parents and guardians will be provided information on how to increase their child’s literacy skills.

The McGaw Y Reading Program: This program will serve approximately 176 rising third graders from Oakton, Washington and Dawes schools and Family Focus Reading Center. Literacy instruction will be provided in the morning by District 65 teachers, and McGaw Y staff will provide enrichment activities in the afternoon. In past years, McGaw Y’s program was limited to students who scored between the 30th and 50th percentile. Next summer, administrators recommend expanding the program to include all students scoring below the 30th percentile, with additional supports for this group of students.

Y.O.U. – Experiential Learning: The Youth Organization Umbrella (Y.O.U.) provides an experiential summer learning program to students in the intermediate and middle grades. Mr. Price proposed that the District provide teachers and materials to implement Engineering is Elementary as one of the many sessions offered by Y.O.U. The session, which will be offered to about 60 students, is built around an engineering design process that teaches children how to solve problems.

Other Summer Programs: The District also plans to prepare about 60 students for kindergarten in its Jumpstart program, to serve about 45 students who are relatively new to this U.S. in its Newcomer program, and to provide supports to about 350 students who have an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

The total estimated cost of the general education 2015 summer program is approximately $235,000, $81,000 of which will be funded by general state aid and $124,000 by federal Title I funds.

Board Members Comments

Board members focused on where students might be falling through the cracks.

Board member Candance Chow said she was concerned that the McGaw Y program would not reach students who did not attend Oakton, Washington, Dawes or Family Focus. “We’re not touching a significant number of our most at-risk students because they don’t go to these schools,” she said. She asked if the District could use some of the unallocated funds built into the budget to serve students who do not go to Title I schools but who have significant needs.

She said 25% of the students at Lincolnwood are not meeting standards, and that their scores are lower than students at Dawes, yet there is no program for them. “There’s a really strong need of these kids and we have to find out how we can support them,” she said.

Jamilla Pitts, the District’s summer learning coordinator, said these students can participate in the home reading program, which is available to rising first through third graders at all schools.

Board member Suni Kartha noted that Y.O.U. will only be serving intermediate and middle school students at schools where it has an after-school program, and asked if there would be a way to reach the students who attended other schools.

Mr. Price said, “I’m not sure there will be [a way to do this] next summer. It wasn’t so much the funding, as it was time to devise a plan that we were confident would be successful.” He said the extra funds built into the budget for the summer program might enable the District to embed a program in Y.O.U.’s program, but not to create a brand new program.

Ms. Chow asked “What is the right thing to do for middle school students? We still believe we need substantive interventions for middle school students and maybe it’s not summer learning, but it’s during school.”

Mr. Price said, “After-school programing, interventions for our students in middle school is one of the many things we’re working on.” He added that he was working with principals to assess the impact of interventions in middle schools, and working to put in place supports and systems that address the needs of the District’s middle school students.

Board member Claudia Garrison said she was concerned there was no summer school for fourth-through eighth-graders and said she was not sure what after-school programs the District had for middle school students. She asked if the assessment that Mr. Price was conducting of middle-school interventions would be available to the Board.

“Absolutely,” said Mr. Price.