At the District 65 School Board meeting on March 22, Stacy Beardsley, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, presented the District’s 2021 Summer Student-Learning Proposal to the Board. The program will include a variety of programs that will serve 1,500 students, almost three times the number in the prior two years. The Board unanimously approved the plan.

An Overview of the Plan

The summer learning plan offers an “array of learning programs,” said Dr. Beardsley. “We’re very excited about the opportunities we’re bringing forward this year. We are essentially moving from offering just over 500 seats last year and fewer the year before to 1,500 seats. We have an opportunity to serve our students that are currently in kindergarten through seventh grade.”

In past years, the District’s summer learning programs have been designed to mitigate summer learning loss. But this year, in light of the impact of COVID-19 on schooling, District 65 has expanded programs to provide more options.

“Programs focus on literacy and STEM-based competencies as well as social emotional learning,” said Dr. Beardsley. “District 65 is focused on accelerating the achievement of students who have been adversely affected by the shift in learning design and access as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The District will also continue to focus on priority learning groups as identified by the Illinois State Board of Education, including early childhood, special education, emergent bilingual, McKinney-Vento, free or reduced lunch status, and students who have demonstrated a lack of engagement in our current learning models.

“Generally, summer programs serve students who are not yet reaching grade level expectations and/or students who may not ordinarily have access to an opportunity that will benefit the student’s academic trajectory in District 65,” said Dr. Beardsley in a memo to the School Board.  

Recommended General Education Programs

Administrators recommended the following academic programs for the coming summer. The number of students that will be served in each program (where available) is included in parenthesis.  

Sylvan Learning of Skokie-Niles: The English Language Arts and Math intervention programs will provide remediation for students in grades K-8. “The curricula are specifically designed to meet the needs of at-risk and low-achieving students to remediate specific skill deficits.” (200 students)

Expeditionary Learning through Creating Outdoor Learning Spaces: “This project is designed to create an expeditionary learning experience around Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), Mathematics, and Science. As students gain understanding around community, problem solving skills, teamwork, and geometric math standards, they will be creating outdoor learning spaces for school communities to use throughout the school year.”  This program may include building structures, painting, creating green spaces, laying materials, etc. Students will help in planning and designing the space, material selection, and application. If possible, it will also include field trips to learn about environmentally friendly products, and gardening. (24 students)

Huntington Academic Tutoring: “Huntington Learning Center will provide students with 48 hours of academic tutoring in reading or math over a six-week period via Zoom. Measurement of student progress will be evaluated via a Scantron Performance Series Achievement test. The District will select the students and provide funding for the program.” (30 students)

JumpStart ECC: This program is designed to give kindergarten bound students who attended the early childhood program at the District’s Joseph E. Hill Center additional support needed to prepare them for kindergarten readiness. “For the summer of 2021, we are hoping to invite all kindergarten bound students to support any learning losses due to COVID closures. This will likely require an increase in 1-2 classrooms.” (80 students)

Multi-Sensory Approach to Acceleration Reading: This six-week half-day program uses a multi-sensory approach to teach foundational skills in addition to supporting students’ development in reading fluency, writing and in components of social emotional learning.” (60 students)

NEIU Literacy Center Tutoring: “The NEIU Literacy Center provides one-to-one tutoring support over 16 sessions between educators working toward an advanced degree in reading instruction, and D65 students in grades 2-8 whose literacy scores range from the 25th to 40th percentile.” (30 students)

Newcomer Program: “Students new to the country (having arrived between January 2020 to the present school year) will have 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.” (40 students)

School Age ChildCare: “The School Age Child Care team offers half- and full-day enrichment camps. D65 is securing 60 seats to extend half-day programming to a full day for families in need of a full day program and financial support specifically in the Newcomers and ESY programs. Scholarship seats will be limited and provided based on need.” (Open)

School Summer Support Fund: A summer learning fund is created that schools may access to create summer programming to build community connections, support students and families in returning to school, and providing support that may not be addressed in the summer learning plan. (Number of students TBD)

McGaw YMCA Summer Learning: “The McGaw YMCA’s Summer Learning Program provides children experiences that contribute to their academic growth, support their social emotional development, and foster a sense of belonging. This six-week program operates at three Evanston program sites – Washington, Oakton, and King Arts schools, with students drawing from several high-need Evanston communities, including the 5th Ward.” (225 students)

Summer Learning Session Plus: “Summer Learning Session Two will be a half-day specialized program designed to address and target students with IEP [Individualized Education Program] who experienced significant learning and skill loss during remote learning. Programs will be offered at Park, Rice, [Joseph E. Hill], and for K-8 students attending our elementary, middle, and magnet schools.”

Summer STEAM McGaw YMCA: “Building on McGaw YMCA’s prior work by deepening the connections between STEAM, critical literacies, and students’ community histories and futures, this collaboration addresses equity through access, curriculum and experiential design, and education leadership residencies. STEAMbassadors will lead youth in such topics as Interactive Storytelling, Coded Beats, Coding, and 8 Bit Bootcamp. All offerings are created in partnership with Northwestern University and Chicago Community Colleges.” (60 students)

In addition to the above programs, the District will provide a Two Way Immersion enrichment program for 20 students.

Y.O.U. is providing a summer program for 280 third- through eighth graders.  Y.O.U.’s program is funded through grants.

“The majority of these programs are being offered on the site with options for remote learning in several situations,” said Dr. Beardsley. “And we are providing learning in English and in Spanish, across a variety of groups.”

Where possible, the District is also working to make full-day programming available to families, said Dr. Beardsley.

Summer Programing for Students with an IEP

As part of its summer program, the District also is offering what it calls an extended-year program, which is required for students whose IEPs provide for extended year services. The plan says that 501 students will be provided extended year services.

The plan also provides a second summer learning session – the Summer Learning Session Plus – that is targeted for students with IEPs who experienced significant learning and skill loss during remote learning this school year.

School Board Questions

Why Use Sylvan and Huntington?

Anya Tanyavutti, President of the School Board, asked why the District was offering programs provided by private companies such as Sylvan and Huntington.

Dr. Beardsley said the summer program planned for this coming summer will serve three times as many students than prior years and offer a number of new programs. “That is a significant increase in both the managerial oversight, the planning and the expansion of new programs.”

She said the planning team strongly suggested that “we move to leaning on some of our external partners to meet the needs of students. And we did that for a couple of reasons.”

She said the District wanted to be able to provide strong summer programs that will meet the needs of students, but also provide “an extremely strong start to our next school year. And this work does sit on the shoulders of the same individuals for that coordination and execution. We want to make sure that anything we commit to do, we are able to commit to delivering a high-level program for students.”

Dr. Beardsly said outsourcing some new programs “seemed like the right new balance.” She added that if the partnering agencies need to hire teachers to staff the programs, they will give priority to District 65 teachers.

Differentiating Program for Students with an IEP

Ms. Tanyavutti also asked if the District would be providing programs targeted at specific areas where students with an IEP may need assistance after an extended period of remote learning.

Romy DeCristofaro, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services, said the second summer learning session is designed specifically for students who demonstrated regression during the remote period. She said the second summer session will be differentiated with various levels of supports, adding that “each special educator or team who recommends a student for that [program] will be recommending a focus on specific individualized IEP goals. So, the teacher in that classroom would be targeting those specific learning needs of the students.”

The Selection Process

 “Selecting students does vary based upon the individual criteria of a program,” said Dr. Beardsley. “Every school has the opportunity to access seats within programs that are appropriate for their ages. … And essentially, we’ve weighted the schools in order to assign seats. So, our schools that have greater need as indicated by free and reduced lunch, or by some of our assessment data or by program data are allocated a greater number of seats.”

She said educators and school leaders are will “identify the students for the seats and the programs that are most appropriate.”

The Budget

The proposed budget for the general education summer programs is $1,179,636, with $204,400 coming from federal Title I and Title III funds and $613,789 from funding through the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER).

The total budget for the extended year program for students with an IEP is $797,494.

Dr. Beardsley’s memo says, “This request operates within the current budget and resources while drawing on ESSER funds.”

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...