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Good reads, STEM experiments, pre-algebra, and drama were among the summer program offerings for students in general education programs at School District 65. Some were offered by the District; others by community partners; in all the 19 summer programs served 1,857 students, according to information presented at the Nov. 14 School Board meeting.

The District also offers Extended School Year programs for students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). These included classroom work and summer camps.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools John Price said the District’s guiding principles for its summer programs include a focus on literacy and/or social emotional learning, support for at-risk students, early intervention for the youngest learners, ways to enhance family engagement, maximization of community resources through partnerships, and a way to collect data to measure the effectiveness of the program.

Dr. Jamilla Pitts, Summer Learning Coordinator, said, “We’re very, very excited to have so many children being served.” Because of the involvement of so many community partners, the District is spending about 60% less money, but more children are being served – about 800 more than in 2014.

“Evanston Public Library made an effort to connect with students in all these programs,” Dr. Pitts added.

A demographic breakdown of the participants showed that 33% were white, 49% were black, 13% were Hispanic, and 5% were Asian. By income level, the breakdown was that 34% pay full price for lunch, 58% pay a reduced price for lunch, and 8% receive free lunch.

Although the typical focus for summer learning has been on literacy, some new programs offered mathematics: a pre-algebra class for middle-school students; Y Power Scholars, which included reading and math; and STEM classes offered at Family Focus by Page & Paxton.

Every summer program, even the City’s athletic programs, had a reading component this year, said Dr. Paul Goren, District 65 Superintendent.

Summer programs aim to address what is called the summer learning loss. Children who are not exposed to reading and other learning challenges over the summer often lose some of the ground they gained during the school year, making them less prepared for the new school year when they return in the fall.

To measure the effectiveness of its summer programs, District 65 administers the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) test in spring and fall. 

The program partners McGaw YMCA, Foundation 65, and Y. O. U. implement their own evaluative tools and share findings with District 65.

In nearly all programs, students either maintained their level of achievement or gained ground.

Summer Programs and Some Highlights

District 65’s Reading Program serves rising first- and third-grade students. The program addressed access to high-quality fiction and nonfiction literature for students who need literacy support. Its Newcomer Program offered access to specialized support for academic development as well as support in becoming oriented to systems, structures, and resources available in the school and community. Its Jumpstart program is designed to prepare at-risk students for kindergarten by building language and literacy skills. New this year, Middle School Pre-Algebra was designed for students who need some additional time and opportunity to develop skills to be successful in Algebra I or who are seeking math enrichment.

Foundation 65 is the hallmark, the gold standard, of summer learning in English and in Spanish,” Dr. Pitts said. Not only do students read in their daily programs, but each student also receives 24 books, tailored to his or her reading level and interest, to keep. Foundation 65 reported that 92% of students who participated maintained their reading levels; of those, 35% increased their reading level. This summer, 133 English-speaking and 31 Spanish-speaking students from 12 schools participated. Foundation 65 distributed 3,936 books and provided 153 magazine subscriptions.

Teachers in the Foundation 65 summer program also correspond with their students, and Foundation 65 offered some excerpts of letters from students and parents: “This program made my child excited to read her new books. She also enjoyed writing back to Mrs. O’Brien.” “Le gustaban mucho. Los leyo muchas veces. Gracias. Ahora tenemos libros in casa. (He liked them a lot. He read them many times. We now have books at home.)”

“I really like getting books in the mail. Thank you so much. P.S. I’m helping my sister read.”

In addition to its Y Reader program, the McGaw Y offered the Y Power Scholars, focusing on both literacy and mathematics. The programs serve rising first-, second-, and third-grade students from Oakton, Washington, Dawes, and Walker schools and select students from the Fifth Ward. Students previously enrolled are expected to continue until they are rising 3rd grade students, which is the final year of participation.

At the McGaw Y’s middle-school MetaMedia center, students designed practical inventions and demonstrated them during a “Shark Tank” presentation. The District was able to offer scholarships to two students from each of its schools to the McGaw Y’s two-week overnight Camp Echo.

The McGaw Y reports “We increased confidence for Makers going into middle school. More than 47% agreed, ‘I’m confident that I can present my ideas to adults in a clear, organized way.’”

Another new program was the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School focused on reading. Community service and civics lessons were added as the children helped in a voter registration drive. Fifty students attended the Freedom School, sponsored by Garrett Evangelical Seminary. While results from the pre- and post-tests were not available at the Nov. 14 meeting, the evaluation from the school says, “Informally, we know that the children enjoyed the program; their reading improved; and parents reported increased self-esteem in their children. 

Y.O.U. programs served elementary- and middle-school students. A pilot program for elementary-school students was modeled after Lucy Calkin’s Reader’s and Writer’s Workshops. Middle-school students engaged in project-based learning. A successful example of this, according to Y.O.U., was “when youth coordinated a basketball game between themselves and the Evanston Police Department, hoping for more understanding, tolerance and community-building.”

At Family Focus, students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade participated in Page & Paxton’s STEM programs. Drama programs led by District 65 teachers taught students about writing, plot development, improvisation, and self-reflection. Eighty-six percent of the participants in the drama classes agreed with the statement, “I enjoyed the creative dramatics classes.”

One parent wrote, “Thanks so much to the staff at Y Readers, the Foster Reading Center, Family Focus Evanston and Paige & Paxton for the amazing work this summer with our daughter. This girl is excited about STEM.”

Books & Breakfast, offered at Lincolnwood and Dewey Schools, included swimming this summer.

Dr. Pitts said the recommendation for next year is to “fund every program” in the 2016 summer sessions and to add one more. “We’ve received a proposal from the Evanston Public Library to bring in Northwestern University’s Science in Society,” she said. The SIS program engages students in hands-on learning projects.

The cost for the proposed General Education Programming for the summer of 2017 is projected at $305,300. The total cost for Extended School Year included in the FY17 Budget is $294,000.