Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students - Volume 2 Profiles of Promising Practices -1995
A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
Summer Program For At-Risk Students
South Bend, Indiana
- Family and community involvement
- Thematic activities
This five-week, summer Title I Migrant Education project uses a theme-based, interdisciplinary curriculum to help more than 500 students in grades pre-K-10 succeed in the regular school program, attain grade-level proficiency, and improve their academic achievement in basic and advanced skills. The program, which began in 1968 and targets students who are migrant or nonnative English speakers, emphasizes geography, science, the arts, media, and technology. The themes, chosen by students and the project director, provide a focus for computer labs, library research, and journal writing.
South Bend, Indiana, is an urban community that has lost many manufacturing jobs in recent years. The school district contains 20,000 students, of whom about 29 percent are African American, 5 percent are Hispanic, and 2 percent are Asian American. The dropout rate among language minority students is about 15 percent. Most students who attend the summer program live on the west side of town, where the majority of Hispanics live.
The program, held at a single school site each year, focuses on helping mostly Hispanic language-minority students acquire the skills, knowledge, and support needed to enter school, remain at grade level, learn English or pursue accelerated studies, graduate from high school, and find productive employment or pursue higher education. Many of the students are considered to be at risk of school failure because of their limited proficiency in English, high mobility, and cultural traits.
Major Program Features
- Planning and design. The Summer Program for At-Risk Students began in 1968 as a Title I project; since 1978, it has been sponsored by the local Title I Migrant Education Program and the school district. Each participating student has an individualized plan for achieving academic and personal goals. A planning team that consists of parents, teachers, the school principal, and the project director convenes in January to discuss the site, the theme, and the budget. In February, the team begins planning the curriculum. Before the project begins, the director meets with classroom teachers to discuss each student's individual performance and learn which materials and methods will work best for him or her. In addition to the services provided at the school site, the summer program has two bilingual support staff who visit the children's families to determine the family's housing, health, employment, and education needs. Breakfast, lunch, and two snacks are served every day.
- Academic focus. The goals of the summer school for at-risk students include improving basic skills and English language proficiency, expanding awareness of career and cultural opportunities, and boosting students' self esteem. Students are recruited through bilingual letters sent to parents in April, home visits to illiterate or unresponsive parents, and word-of-mouth communication. The project director defines three principal areas of focus: (1) remedial help, (2) enrichment activities, and (3) accelerated courses of study. Summer school and regular term teachers determine each student's placement on the basis of a skills checklist, test scores, and a Migrant Student Record if available, and through consultation with bilingual education staff. Individual student needs and performance are closely monitored by a mentor--an aide or college student who is supervised by a lead teacher. The program, which serves approximately 500 students each summer, begins in the third week of June and runs for five weeks. Students meet for seven-and-a-half hours a day, Monday through Friday. Students spend mornings on academic activities and afternoons in extracurricular activities such as dance, art, or swimming.
Summer activities center around a theme developed by students, teachers, and the project director. For a "world geography" theme, for example, students researched different countries and then simulated an airport in the school lobby. Each wing of the school represented a different continent, and each classroom represented a country. Visitors "flew" to the country (classroom) of their choice, where students presented the educational and cultural knowledge they had acquired. Each year, the theme is changed to entice previous students to return. Program leaders also say that students return because the activities are fun and hands-on and because meals are served.
Students and staff use the school's computer labs. For a "health" theme, for example, accelerated students wrote research papers on a family member's disease, such as diabetes or cancer. Students researched the illness and its treatments, learned what treatments their relative had used, and described prevention strategies. Beginning in seventh grade, students who show interest in higher education also receive college counseling. The project director has informal arrangements with three local universities to identify possible scholarship candidates among the summer program participants.
- Organizational management/structure. The 24 teachers in this full-day program are regular classroom teachers, and many speak Spanish. The program uses 36 aides, most of whom are Hispanic or Asian American students who also serve as positive, bilingual role models. The program is flexible and takes into account each student's age, previous experience, and grade level when determining a course of study. For example, a group of 60 students is monitored and/or taught by one lead teacher, two teachers, and four or five instructional assistants. Of these 60 students, 25 may be involved in academic tasks designed to keep them at grade level, 20 may be in enrichment courses that enhance their knowledge and interests, and 15 may take accelerated courses that encourage them to pursue advanced studies.
The project has a partnership with Notre Dame, Bethel, and Indiana University at South Bend (IUSB), which helps college students obtain scholarships and guarantees them jobs in the summer program for at-risk students. In 1993, 12 college students taught in the summer program.
- Parent and community involvement. Two bilingual outreach workers visit the students' families to assess their needs. If a family needs assistance with housing, obtaining food stamps, finding employment, or pursuing adult education, the outreach workers connect them with the proper community resources. Staff members form alliances with churches and community agencies such as Hispanic Girls Camp, which sponsors a two-week summer camp, and Parents-as-Learners, a project for parents of preschool children. Seventh- and eighth-graders can participate in a separate component of the summer program that provides pre-employment training and job placement.
Students in the summer program are asked to interview their parents and family members about their family histories and culture. Students in grades four and above write stories about their family history and review them with their parents. At the end of the summer program, students display their work, operate special information booths, and receive awards. Parents and community members are invited to this event to visit their children's classrooms and view projects accomplished during the summer. Program leaders also use these events to address community issues.
- Professional environment. The project director believes that the best way to learn is to teach, and this philosophy permeates all aspects of the program. The director selects faculty carefully and builds an atmosphere of trust by assigning them duties that they feel comfortable doing. Teachers and support staff attend a three-day training session that includes presentations on topics such as whole language and English as a Second Language (ESL) strategies, and breakout sessions that allow teachers with similarly aged students to plan lessons and develop materials together. The teachers also help older students develop materials to use with younger children.
- Funding. The program receives $61,000 from a state summer migrant education grant and $74,000 from the school district. Sixty percent of the funding for the summer program comes from federal migrant education grants to the state, 30 percent from the district's general fund, and 10 percent from the Job Training Partnership Act and other small grants. The program's annual budget is $135,000, for an expenditure of $1.54 per student hour.
- Cultural inclusiveness. Ninety percent of the summer program students are Hispanic; the rest are primarily Vietnamese or Cambodian. According to the program director, South Bend is not a well-integrated community; therefore, the program focuses on strengthening the students' feelings of self-worth, encouraging them to set high personal standards, and teaching them to take advantage of opportunities. The project director, who is Puerto Rican, builds an "atmosphere of trust" to counteract demoralizing messages that her students receive from the community, which labels them "migrant," "foreign," or "disadvantaged." In the summer program, speaking another language is not viewed as a problem to be remedied but as an asset, and students have many role models who demonstrate pride in their accomplishments.
- Assessment and accountability. The project director continually requests and integrates the opinions and advice of participating teachers, aides, and students, both informally and through formal surveys on ways to improve the program. Students take tests at the beginning and end of the five-week program, including Brigance for preschoolers, the TABE Test of Basic Skills for grade seven and above, and Language Assessment Scales for ESL students. Teachers consider Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills results when designing a student's individual plan, and document each student's completion of each phase of instruction. The successful completion of projects also is considered a measure of student progress.
Extensive coordination and collaboration within the community are important. The project leader began by forming personal relationships with important allies, such as school principals, district administrators, and members of community organizations; these relationships improved the effectiveness of working groups that helped design and implement the program. Six months before the summer program begins, the director convenes district administrators, bilingual and migrant education administrators, summer teachers, and community representatives to discuss the program. She also meets annually with the principal of the designated summer school site to gain local support.
Transportation to the program is provided on school buses hired by the district, which funds summer programs throughout the district.
Because air conditioning is not available, teachers must make sure that students drink enough water to prevent dehydration. The district's bilingual education division also provides fans.
Evidence of Success
Program directors offer the following evidence of success: (1) increases of up to three proficiency levels among 19 limited-English-proficient students taking CTB-McGraw Hill's Language Assessment Scale in 1992; (2) an increase in the attendance rate from 90 percent to 92 percent; and (3) increased enrollment (from 217 students in 1989 to more than 500 in 1994). The program received the U.S. Secretary of Education's Chapter 1 National Recognition Program Award for three consecutive years.
In some cases, students have leveraged success with the summer program into opportunities to participate in other activities. More than 100 art projects produced by students in the summer program were selected to compete in the local 4-H fair in 1992; two students from the summer program also attended a summer leadership institute for Hispanic girls; in 1991, 25 participants in seventh, eighth, or ninth grade who had perfect attendance in the summer migrant program also participated in a summer job program, and 25 students participated in one of two special programs at Indiana University.
[The Summer Institute for At-Risk Migrant Students]
[Total Action Against Poverty (TAP)]