School District 65 served about 950 students in its summer program during the summer of 2019. About 325 of the students participated in an “Extended School Year” program that served students with a disability and whose  Individual Education Program (IEP) called for services during the summer.

The summer program supported an additional 633 students who were identified by principals and teachers as needing additional supports. These students were invited to participate in one of the available programs; their participation was not mandatory. The programs focused on increasing literacy, math, and social and emotional learning for the District’s youngest learners. In addition, the programs provided enrichment opportunities to students who would not otherwise have access to them.

A wide range of students participated in the program, says a memo summarizing the program that was presented to members of the School Board in December:

• 40% were black, 31% Hispanic, 16% white, 7% multi-racial, and 4% Asian.

• 60% qualified for free-lunch, 7% for reduced-fee lunch, and 33% did not qualify for free- or reduced-fee lunch.

 As in prior summers, the District provided four academic programs on its own; it provided an academic program 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.

The programs varied by grade level. There were more slots available for students transitioning into kindergarten and into second grade than for students rising into other grade levels. The capacity to provide supports to students rising into first, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades was limited.

Transition to Kindergarten: The Pre-K Jumpstart Program supported 128 students in the transition from pre-K to kindergarten. The program was staffed by District 65 teachers and served students for at least three hours per day.

McGaw Y’s Summer Programs for rising first-, second-, third- and fourth-graders: In the summer of 2019, District 65 and the McGawY partnered together to serve rising first-, second-, third- and fourth-graders in the Y Power Scholars Academy Program. District 65 teachers taught literacy and math skills in the morning; and McGaw Y staff provided enrichment activities, including field trips, in the afternoon. Last summer, this six-week program was offered at Oakton and Washington schools and at the Family Focus building.

A total of 212 students were served in this program. Between 30 and 69 students were served at each grade level. The program is funded by McGaw Y and District 65.

Foundation 65 Summer Reading Program for rising second-graders: District 65 partnered with Foundation 65 to serve about 140 rising second graders in a summer home reading program. In the program, each student received up to 24 books during the summer. The books were selected by the student’s teacher and tailored to the student’s reading level and interest. Teachers who participated in the program corresponded with their students during the summer. The program, started by Foundation 65 in 2011, has had significant success. Foundation 65 has funded this program.

District 65 Summer Learning Library for rising third-graders: Last summer, District 65 served 11 rising third-graders in its Summer Learning Library program. In this program, families were introduced to and explored numerous resources and services available at Evanston Public Library.

MSX Meta Media for rising sixth graders: 26 rising sixth graders were served in the Meta Media Summer Experience program at the McGaw Y. The program was designed to spark interest in the areas of entrepreneurship, invention and STEM.

Middle School Pre-Algebra Program: This program, taught by District 65 teachers, served about 50 students to strengthen their readiness for success in Algebra 1.

Newcomers Program: This program, also taught by District 65 teachers, served 32 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.

Partner Enrichment Programs: The District also partnered with Family Focus, Fleetwood Jourdain and Youth Opportunity United (Y.O,U.) to provide enrichment activities to students during the summer. The programs have a range of goals, including to support social and emotional learning, build perseverance and promote problem-solving and collaboration.

 Extended School Year for Students with an Individual Education Program (IEP): District 65 provided this program for students with a disability whose IEP called for year-round supports. These supports, provided to about 325 students, were mandated by State and federal law.

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.”

McGaw Y reported that the average reading gain for students who participated in the Y Powers Scholars Academy Program was 2 months and the average math gain was 1 month during the six-week period.

Foundation 65 reported that 92% of the students who participated in its summer reading program maintained their reading levels over the summer; and, of those, 50% increased their reading level.

Proposal for 2019

The memo presented to the School Board by Andalib Khelghati, Assistant Superintendent of Schools; Stacy Beardsely, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction; Ramona DeCristafaro, Executive Director of Special Services; and Jamilla Pitts, Director of Summer Learning, recommends that the District offer a summer program in 2020 that is similar to the one provided in the summer of 2019.

The memo says, “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 proposes to offer the following programs next summer:

  • McGaw YMCA Scholars, serving 235 rising first-, second- and third-graders from Oakton, Washington, Dawes, Kingsley, and King Arts schools and selected students from the Fifth Ward,
  • Emergent Bilingual Support (formerly the Newcomers Program) serving 45 students,
  • Jumpstart at the Joseph E. Hill Early Childhood Center and Oakton, serving 80 rising kindergartners,
  • Middle School Pre-Algebra serving 36 students at Haven,
  • Foundation 65 Summer Reading Program serving 150 rising second graders (funded by Foundation 65),
  • Camp Echo, support 10 students.

After including amounts for several other programs, and instructional materials, the total proposed budget for general education summer programing is $289,400, compared to $279,000 last summer.

The total budget for students with an IEP is $260,000.

The Board did not discuss the memo or the summer program at its December meetings.

Larry Gavin

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...