Sum­mer pro­grams keep kids on track

Study: Lo­cal ini­tia­tives im­prove, main­tain district test scores

The News-Times (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Zach Mur­dock

DAN­BURY — More than 80 per­cent of Dan­bury stu­dents who par­tic­i­pated in sum­mer learn­ing pro­grams ei­ther im­proved or at least main­tained test scores be­tween spring and fall, ac­cord­ing to a new study of the scores.

The data, the first of its kind for the Dan­bury school district, il­lus­trate how ef­fec­tive lo­cal pro­grams are at re­duc­ing the so-called “sum­mer slide,” in which chil­dren’s learn­ing slumps dur­ing the sum­mer break, of­fi­cials said.

Many stu­dents lose two months of math skills in the sum­mer and low-in­come chil­dren can lose even more time in read­ing skills, ac­cord­ing to the non­profit Na­tional Sum­mer Learn­ing As­so­ci­a­tion.

The lo­cal study gives district of­fi­cials the op­por­tu­nity to fine tune the more than 40 pro­grams of­fered dur­ing the sum­mer to max­i­mize the im­pact on stu­dent learn­ing even be­tween school years, said Anne Mead, the district’s direc­tor of fam­ily, school and com­mu­nity part­ner­ships.

Many stu­dents lose two months of math skills in the sum­mer.

“We know that the time when (stu­dents) end school in June and start again in Septem­ber, we of­ten see what we call sum­mer learn­ing slide,” she said. “We want to stop that ... We talked big ideas: What are stu­dents miss­ing in foun­da­tional knowl­edge and what are the op­por­tu­ni­ties that these sum­mer pro­grams could give them?”

Last fall, Mead and district staff gath­ered al­most all of those sum­mer learn­ing pro­gram co­or­di­na­tors to pro­duce a di­rec­tory of sum­mer pro­grams and de­velop a plan to study their pro­grams’ ef­fect on stu­dent test scores to prove their im­por­tance.

Thou­sands of stu­dents par­tic­i­pated, so Mead’s staff de­cided to track the num­bers of 411 chil­dren in three dif­fer­ent pro­grams, in­clud­ing one run by a com­mu­nity provider, in­stead of a school it­self. All of the chil­dren par­tic­i­pated in at least five weeks of pro­grams that lasted all day, Mead said.

Of those stu­dents, the district com­pared their spring lit­er­acy and math scores to their fall scores in Septem­ber.

The re­sults showed that 55 per­cent of stu­dents in­creased their lit­er­acy scores and an­other 30 per­cent main­tained them, within five points of their spring scores, Mead said. Math scores in­creased for 65 per­cent of those stu­dents and an­other 18 per-

cent main­tained their scores.

Only 15 per­cent saw their lit­er­acy scores drop and 17 per­cent saw their math scores drop — the sum­mer slide, she said.

The study gives the district a new base­line to de­ter­mine the suc­cess of its sum­mer pro­grams go­ing for­ward, so Mead’s team plans to ex­pand its data col­lec­tion next year.

“We’ll ex­pand the num­ber we look at next year,” she said. “We spent some time build­ing some trust with pro­grams and get­ting them to feel like they’re part of the com­mu­nity and see­ing the value of their role in their pro­grams to work with all of our chil­dren in Dan­bury.

“A lot of pro­grams have re­ally won­der­ful rep­u­ta­tions in the com­mu­nity and fam­i­lies come back to them ev­ery year.”

The group of pro­gram providers also con­vened the first-ever Spring Re­source Fair at the Dan­bury Sports Dome to high­light all of the avail­able op­tions for fam­i­lies.

More than 600 fam­i­lies at­tended, so the district plans to host one each year now to help con­nect par­ents with the right pro­grams to sup­port their stu­dents dur­ing the sum­mer, Su­per­in­ten­dent Sal Pas­carella said.

“It was a yeo­man ef­fort to bring about the syn­ergy and to bring it all un­der one roof; lit­er­ally the dome al­lowed us to do that,” Pas­carella said. “It’s needed and it needs to be re­in­forced.”

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