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On Dec. 4, the District 65 School Board unanimously approved a 2018 Summer Learning Program. Jamilla Pitts, Summer Learning Coordinator for the District, told Board members that the 2018 summer program will be very similar to the summer program in 2017, which she summarized at an earlier Board meeting. She said, though, that it will have to operate with reduced funding.  

Priorities and an Overview

Dr. Pitts said there are six guiding principles for the summer program:

• Focus on literacy and/or social emotional learning,

• Support striving students (students performing below the national grade level median),

• Provide early intervention for the youngest learners,

• Enhance family engagement,

• Provide data indicating effectiveness, and

• Maximize community resources through strategic partnerships.

 Dr. Pitts said the District provides four academic programs on its own; it provides two academic programs in partnership with the McGaw YMCA; it partners with Foundation 65 and the Evanston Public Library to provide summer reading programs; and it also partners with a number of organizations to provide enrichment activities for students.

District 65 Academic Programs

District 65 provides four academic summer learning programs focusing on distinct age groups and student needs, said Dr. Pitts. The programs are:

 • Extended School Year (ESY): District 65 provides this program for students with a disability whose  Individualized Education Plan calls for year-round supports. 

• Pre-K Jumpstart Program: This program supports students in the transition from Pre-K to kindergarten.

• Newcomers Program: This program serves students new to the country by providing a half day of academic programming focused on creating concrete and experiential learning that supports language acquisition and collaboration. 

• Pre-Algebra Program: This program serves select middle school students to strengthen their readiness for success in Algebra 1 in eighth grade. The primary focus is students who score between the 25th and 50th percentiles. 

Each of these programs is staffed by District 65 teachers, and serves students for at least three hours per day. Last summer about 250 students were served in these programs.

McGaw Y’s Summer Programs

Since 2013, the District and McGaw Y have been serving rising first, second and third graders in the Y Reader program which focuses on literacy. District 65 teachers teach literacy skills in the morning; and  McGaw Y staff provide enrichment activities in the afternoon. Last summer, this program was offered at Washington Elementary School and Family Focus

In 2017, the Y Power Scholars program was implemented to serve students in grades K-8, with a focus on both literacy and mathematics instruction. Like the Y Reader program, District 65 teachers provide academic instruction in the morning and McGaw Y staff provide enrichment activities in the afternoon. Last summer, the Y Power Scholars program was offered at Oakton, Dawes, and Kingsley.

About 200 students were served through these programs.

D65, F65 and EPL Summer Reading Programs

The summer reading programs are designed to promote early literacy skills by providing students with access to high quality fiction and nonfiction texts, and to facilitate parent involvement. Last summer, District 65 served 93 kindergartners in its summer reading program; Foundation 65 served 156 first graders; and the Evanston Public Library served 106 second graders. 

In the Foundation 65 program, each student receives up to 24 books during the summer. The books are selected by the student’s teacher and tailored to the student’s reading level and interest. Teachers who participate in the program correspond with their students during the summer. The program, started in 2014, has had significant success.

Partner Enrichment Programs and Summer Reading

The District also partners with community organizations that provide enrichment activities to students during the summer, said Dr. Pitts. The programs have a range of goals, including to support social emotional learning, build perseverance, and promote problem solving and collaboration.

The District partners with Family Focus, Fleetwood Jourdain, Freedom School, Meta Media, and Youth Opportunity United (YOU) to provide specialized programming in non-academic settings, said Dr. Pitts.

Student Enrollment

The 2017 Summer Learning programs served 1,518 students, 122 of whom attended multiple programs. Dr. Pitts said there was a wide range of students:

• 48% were Black, 29% Hispanic, 18% White, 8% multi-racial, and 3% Asian.

• 65% qualified for free-lunch, 5% for reduced-fee lunch, and 30% did not qualify for free- or reduced-fee lunch.

Students who need supports are invited to attend. “We identify students who we think will most benefit from these program and we make direct contact with their families,” said Stacy Beardsley, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction.

“The educators in the building look at the needs of the students and they invite the students who will most need the support,” said Dr. Pitts. 

Impact on ‘Summer Learning Loss’

Several studies show that a child from a middle-income household with access to various enrichment activities during the summer months will advance about one month in reading level during the summer, but a child from an economically disadvantaged household will lose about two months in reading level during the summer. One goal of the summer program is to reduce what is called “summer learning loss.”

Dr. Pitts said the District measured the impact of the academic summer programs by comparing a student’s scores on the spring Developmental Reading Assessment (DSA) given in the spring and the student’s scores on the fall DSA. If a student’s  scores stayed the same, the student is said to have maintained their academic ability over the summer. If the scores went down, their academic ability is said to have declined. If the scores went up, the students’ ability increased.

Dr. Pitts reported that, during the last summer, more than 75% of the students in the academic programs either maintained or increased their scores on the DRA. 

The table below provides data for five academic summer programs: McGaw YMCA reading program (Y Readers); McGaw Y Power Scholars (Y Scholars), District 65 Kindergarten Summer Reading Program (D65 K Reading), Foundation 65 Summer Reading Program (F65 Reading), and the Summer Library Learning Program (EPL Reading).

The District also presented data for four other summer programs, using the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test: Middle School Pre-Algebra, EPL STEM, McGaw Y Power Scholars Math and Reading, and Freedom School.

The report said the District had data for only a portion of the students in these programs, but in most cases a significantly higher percentage of students maintained or gained ground in math and in reading during the summer than lost ground. The one exception is the Y Power Scholars program.

“Our partners worked tremendously well. There was a wealth of collaboration to provide the wide range of supports that we have,” said Dr. Pitts. “We are very fortunate to have all the people who invest time and energy to make sure our students have a great experience in the summer.”

Dr. Beardsley said, “Overall we’re happy with the results, but acknowledge there’s areas we need to improve.”

Proposal for 2018

“The 2018 proposal is strongly based on what we did in 2017,” said Dr. Pitts. Last summer, though, the budget was about $305,000, and next summer’s budget is pegged at $280,000. The decrease is due to a decline in funding from the State.

Due to a reduction in General State Aid, “We had to make some hard choices,” said Dr. Pitts. “We looked at the programs and how well they aligned with our guiding principles. We also looked at our capacity to fill the seats in each of the programs. These were the two main factors that we considered in determining what we should continue to fund.”

“Largely we’re funding much of what we did last summer, with a few less dollars,” said Dr. Pitts. She said administrators were recommending eliminating funding for the Evanston Public Library’s STEM program, and eliminating one teacher for Jump Start and for Fleetwood. “Pretty much other than that, all of the programs are intact.”

Dr. Goren said, “The lion’s share of the resources are really put into reading and the importance of reading during the summer and fighting the summer reading loss, but also engaging kids, and that’s both the programs that we have and Foundation 65.

“Based on what we see is the very significant achievement gap for our youngest students, our priority in that area is well placed.”

Dr. Pitts said, “I don’t think we’re going to see a dramatic reduction in the number of students.”

Board member Candance Chow said that when she started on the Board four years ago, the District was reaching about 600 students in its summer program at a cost of about $600,000. “Now we’re reaching more students at a lower cost, due to partnerships,” she said.