On Nov. 12, the District 65 School Board unanimously approved a 2019 Summer Learning Program. Jamilla Pitts, Summer Learning Coordinator for the District, told Board members that the summer program proposed for 2019 would be very similar to the one provided by the District in 2018.

Dr. Pitts said the summer program will support at-risk students and focus on literacy and social and emotional learning for the youngest learners. In addition, the District will continue to enhance family engagement and partner with community organizations.

The 2018 Summer Learning Program

 Dr. Pitts gave a report on the summer learning program in 2018. The District provided four academic programs on its own; it provided two academic programs in partnership with the McGaw YMCA; it partnered with Foundation 65 and the Evanston Public Library to provide summer reading programs; and it also partnered with a number of organizations to provide enrichment activities for students.

District 65 Academic Programs

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

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

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

• Newcomers Program: This program served 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 served select middle school students to strengthen their readiness for success in Algebra 1 in eighth grade. The primary focus was students who scored between the 25th and 50th percentiles.

Each of these programs was staffed by District 65 teachers, and served students for at least three hours per day. Last summer 334 students were served in these programs, including those at Park School and Rice Child and Family Center.

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 provides 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 Elementary School.

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. Each elementary school recommends students for the programs. Last summer, District 65 served 93 kindergartners in its summer home reading program; Foundation 65 served 155 first-graders in its summer home reading program; and the Evanston Public Library served 83 second-graders.

District 65 modeled it home reading program after Foundation 65’s. 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.

The summer library program supports second-graders who may not be participating in an on-site summer program; it supports the students and their parents in library visits and accessing library resources.

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, Meta Media, and Youth Opportunity United (YOU) to provide specialized programming in non-academic settings, said Dr. Pitts.

Student Enrollment

The 2018 Summer Learning programs served more than 900 students, said Dr. Pitts. This was a 41% decrease from the 1,518 served in the 2017 summer program. Dr. Pitts said there was a wide range of students:

• 40% were Black, 33% Hispanic, 16% White, 6% multi-racial, and 5% Asian.

• 61% qualified for free-lunch, 8% for reduced-fee lunch, and 31% did not qualify for free- or reduced-fee lunch.

Students who need supports are identified by principals and teachers and are invited to attend, said Dr. Pitts. “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 a test given at the end of a school year with those on a test given at the beginning of the next school year. 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 data for about 160 students who had pre- and post-summer tests and who participated in one of three summer programs.

• Of 86 students in the sample who participated in the McGaw Y reading programs, 82% either maintained or increased their scores.

• Of the 53 students in the sample who participated in District 65’s home-reading program, 75% either maintained or increased their scores.

• Of 23 students who participated in the Middle School pre-algebra program, 74% increased their scores. 

Because there is in-school instruction both after the end-of-school year tests and before the beginning-of-the year tests, the test results may be influenced by instruction received in the regular school year, cautioned Dr. Pitts.

Proposal for 2019

Dr. Pitts said administrators are recommending a program for the 2019 summer that will be similar to the one in 2018. She said, “While we will continue to partner with multiple agencies, the success of students in the YMCA programs is an essential aspect of designating the YMCA as our preferred partner in future summer academic programming for our youngest students (kindergarten through 3rd grade). The YMCA provides a full day program with academic and enrichment experiences for young learners using District 65 staff and sites.”

In addition to providing programs for students with an IEP, the District will be offering the following programs next summer:

• McGaw Y Readers and Scholars, serving 235 rising first-, second- and third-graders at three to four sites ($170,000)

• Jumpstart serving rising kindergartners ($22,800)

• District 65 reading program serving 150 rising first-graders ($15,000);

• Foundation 65 summer reading program serving 150 rising second-graders (Funded by F65);

• EPL summer literacy program serving 150 rising third-graders ($15,200

• Newcomers program serving 45 students (($15,200)

• Middle School Pre-Algebra serving 30 students ($7,200)

• Support programs at Family Focus, Fleetwood and Meta Media ($19,000)

• Camp Echo, support 10 students ($10,000)

The District is also planning to work with YOU to help identify academic learning options in their summer programing.

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...