Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Foundation to assess city schools' Summer Dreamers Academy

Foundation to assess city schools' Summer Dreamers AcademyAugust 14, 2013 12:08 am
Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-GazetteAs part of a $50 million investment in summer K-12 programs including one in Pittsburgh, the Wallace Foundation is taking a close look at whether those programs work.
Wallace has been one of the funders for Summer Dreamers Academy operated by Pittsburgh Public Schools.
The academy drew 2,200 students this summer. The foundation has spent a total of $2.8 million in 2011, 2012 and 2013 in Pittsburgh. It also has contributed to programs in Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Duval County in Florida and Rochester. In addition to the district investments, Wallace also awarded grants to four nonprofit organizations that support summer learning.
Wallace has hired the Rand Corp. to study whether the summer programs improve student learning and what the best practices are in such programs.In a report released Monday, the researchers made recommendations on how to launch summer learning programs, including planning early for summer programs, hiring teachers by February so the best teachers are available and using commercially available curriculum rather than district-created curriculum.
It also recommends spending three to four hours a day for academics.To be cost conscious, the report recommends avoiding assigning small numbers of students to many sites, using enrichment providers to fill out the program, hiring staff based on projected attendance rather than enrollment and operating a full-day program for five to six weeks.
The studies focus on summers of 2011 and 2012. Some 5,000 students are being tracked in the studies.
One goal is to document what efforts can narrow the achievement gap between low-income and higher-income students.
Ann Stone, senior research and evaluation officer at the Wallace Foundation, said many students forget a portion of their school year learning over the summer.
However, she said, research shows the losses are greatest for low-income children, who already enter school academically behind their higher-income peers.
"We think summer learning could be one of the best ways to reduce that achievement gap," Ms. Stone said.

Here is my $.02 for this overall mission.

We need more parent engagement. The parents need to know that the schools are going to try hard, but without some boosters and support at home, then the efforts won't really work in the long run. 

I enjoyed meeting the parents when this was possible. But, it isn't woven into the programs as it is now. The kids get on the bus. The kids get off the bus. There are few, if any, times when the kids, their parent(s) / grandmothers / guardians, and their peers and the teachers as well as the activity providers get to interact. 

The "night out" was a flop.

The "open house" was a flop. too. 

Our swim party and group swim lesson had potential, but it wasn't organized in advance and didn't occur. 

Our post camp trips / days were great, but too many were not invested and tied into the program.

I loved seeing some of the parents play SKWIM. That's more of what we need. Then, sky is the limit for the kids and the district.

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