- Planning and design. The Title I summer program for private school children was designed to meet the needs of Title I-eligible private school students after the U.S. Supreme Court's Aguilar v. Felton decision, which prevents the local Title I program from delivering on-site services at religiously affiliated private schools. The district's Title I specialist and principals of the local nonpublic schools identify prospective students for the program. An advisory team to the district Title I staff composed of the private school principals meets every other month to discuss planning and implementation issues, including academic content for the summer program, continuity of instruction, parent involvement, and the effectiveness of the Title I project consultant. Title I teachers work in primary and intermediate grade-level teams to plan all aspects of the program.
- Academic focus. The curriculum in Beaverton schools emphasizes language arts instruction based on high-quality literature and thematic units that bridge disciplines. Thematic units chosen by program staff provide the framework for instruction in the summer program. Students read and write about themes that are interesting to them. For example, while studying the history of the Oregon Trail the students work individually and in groups to read historical accounts, write journals, and make maps of the trail. A project on local history engaged students in reading about quilting, writing a quilting song, and making a quilt. Under the direction of four Title I teachers and five instructional assistants, the students also learn strategies to improve their reading skills (e.g., retelling stories they read to monitor their own comprehension.)
Classes meet for three-and-a-half hours a day, four days a week in the same building used by the district-sponsored summer school for special education students. The program director views this arrangement as mutually beneficial because it allows Title I students to improve their skills by reading to children with learning problems. Creative groupings also enhance learning opportunities; options include cross-age grouping according to interest, grouping according to needs, and heterogeneous grouping for cooperative learning. Ten to 15 "reading partners"--parents or community volunteers--offer regular, individualized help to students during the five-week session. They read to children, using high-quality literature and picture books and emphasizing the students' prior knowledge, reading comprehension, and ability to make predictions.
Students use laptop computers to learn word processing and write reports, poetry, and new versions of favorite books. Students are allowed to take the computers home, although some parents have been reluctant to take responsibility for such expensive equipment.
- Organizational management/structure. The program is managed by a Title I program specialist assisted by a Title I consultant. The consultant monitors the performance of students in the private schools during the school year, consults with students and teachers individually, and offers training sessions for teachers and parents at various nonpublic school sites. Four certified reading specialists and five instructional assistants, paid on an extended-year contract, work approximately six hours a day on program activities during the summer. Teachers and assistants choose to participate in the summer program and have some time off before and after summer school; according to the project director, the shortened workweek and workday help keep the year-round staff from experiencing burnout.
Prospective students in the Beaverton private schools are identified by principals and teachers. The Title I consultant evaluates students whose teachers report that they are reading below grade level in order to determine their relative strengths. Students whose composite scores reveal serious deficiencies in advanced skills are invited to participate in the summer program. Parents are expected to help their children improve attitudes toward reading. Parents attend monthly training sessions between spring and fall, during which Title I specialists describe ways to support children's learning at home.
- Parent and community involvement. Parents are encouraged to participate in home-based learning activities that increase their confidence and skills. Once summer school students are identified, their parents attend a meeting that introduces them to the program and describes ways in which they can help their children learn. Parent meetings are held monthly between spring and fall; child care is provided at every meeting so that single parents or both parents can attend. In a typical parent session, a consultant introduces parents to home-learning strategies such as using illustrations to impart meaning. The children then join them and teachers model the strategy. Parents are then encouraged to try the strategy themselves.
During the summer, parents attend one or two "Open Houses" at which they view their children's work, participate in planned activities, and evaluate the program. At a recent open house, teachers set up learning centers in each classroom that represented Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences (e.g., musical or kinesthetic); in one, parents learned how to write a song using a keyboard, viewed songs written by students, and were encouraged to write a song with their children. Some parents also volunteer during summer school to work with students individually or become "reading partners."
A local bookstore and two restaurants offer rewards for student achievement and food for parent involvement sessions. Each time a parent reports that a child has read five books, the student receives a coupon redeemable for one book at the participating bookstore. McDonald's and a local pizza place also offer coupons. The Kiwanis Club provides child care during the parent meetings.
- Professional environment. The summer school staff consists mainly of trained professionals who work on an extended contract. Staff development for the summer school consists of one full day of training with one and a half days allotted for setting up and planning. After a training session introduced teachers and aides to "multiple intelligences" research and theories, teachers were encouraged to use the theories to assess each student's strengths and find ways to build on them. Staff usually receive one and a half hours a day to plan, organize, and assess their daily activities.
- Funding. The summer program's $35,850 budget comes entirely from the Beaverton Title I program. The per-pupil expenditure is about $652. District buses provide transportation, but Title I funds pay for their use. The Beaverton school district supplies the site, within an already-existing summer school; it also offers copying privileges and some administrative support. Beaverton does not have a Title I program for private school students during the regular term.
- Assessment and accountability. Teachers use frequent portfolio assessments to encourage students to review their own work critically and observe progress made over the course of the summer. The program uses a "Reading Miscue Inventory" to provide pre- and post-test results that measure student progress. Students show consistent gains in use of effective reading strategies such as backtracking (re-reading difficult passages), making meaningful substitutions, and self-correcting. Results from student self-assessments also indicate that students' perceptions of themselves as learners are enhanced by the summer school experience. Anecdotal information from principals and teachers indicates that the program improves student performance and self-esteem.