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 Enhancement Program
Charleston County Public Schools
Charleston, South Carolina
- Focus on basic skills
- Science-based thematic curriculum
Charleston's six-week, science-based summer enhancement program has helped at-risk students in grades K-5 maintain and improve their skills in reading, writing, and mathematics since 1989. The program targets at-risk, Title I students who pass their classes but would benefit from a summer enrichment program. The program has two goals: (1) to maintain and improve students' basic skills through experiential learning activities in science-based thematic units, and (2) to improve student attitudes toward school and learning.
In 1993, two urban and four rural elementary schools in Charleston County offered the program and enrolled 500 K-5 students. All of the schools incorporated the program into their Title I schoolwide projects. In 1994, the program expanded to two additional schools. Ninety-eight percent of the students participating are African American, and 2 percent are Anglo. At least 75 percent--and at some schools up to 99 percent--of the students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. The program traditionally has not served migrant students because the district has a separate migrant education program. However, one of the recently added sites (Frierson Elementary School) serves some migrant students. A homeless shelter is located near another program site, Sanders-Clyde Elementary School, and a few homeless children enroll in that school's summer program. In previous years, a small number of religious school students who participated in Title I programs also have attended.
With a few exceptions, students must be enrolled in Title I to attend the program, and parents must register the children. Children who are not enrolled in Title I may attend on the basis of teacher recommendations and low scores on standardized tests. The program focuses on enrichment activities, rather than remediation for students who have failed a class.
Major Program Features
- Planning and design. The summer enhancement program began as a Title I program at two of the participating sites in response to concerns about students' loss of skills over the summer. The Title I director believed that marginal students who were not failing were falling through the cracks because traditional summer school programs targeted either gifted and talented students or those who needed remediation. The program was first offered in 1989 at Ronald McNair and Sanders-Clyde, the two schools with the lowest standardized test scores. The program has the following goals:
- Each child will engage in independent reading and have opportunities to manipulate language through writing, reading, and discussion.
- Each child will develop an understanding of scientific and mathematical concepts through interdisciplinary, experience-based activities.
- Each child will receive individualized attention.
- Each child will participate in activities that are related to real-world experiences.
Because of the emphasis on individualized attention, the number of children accepted into the program each year determines the number of teachers hired. Most classes have about 15 students.
- Academic focus. The program meets for four hours each weekday morning for six weeks. Every day, participants attend classes organized around science themes, work in the school's computer lab, check out books and read in the media center, and spend time writing in their journals. Classes and activities focus on teacher-written curriculum units, with different science themes for each grade level: community and environment in kindergarten; frogs and toads in first grade; sea animals in second grade; outer space in third grade; energy and magnets in fourth grade; and environmental conservation and preservation in fifth grade.
Hands-on activities are key to student learning; each class takes at least three field trips and students perform experiments, read books, write stories, and solve mathematical problems. For example, first-grade classes follow the life cycle of the frog by raising tadpoles in their classrooms. Students keep records of their observations; measure and graph tadpole growth; and write stories, riddles, and fact books about their frogs. At most schools, teachers use videos, films, and audiocassettes to enhance classroom instruction. In addition to teaching staff, each site has a media specialist who serves as a librarian and conducts classes that focus on reading activities (e.g., acting out stories, creating new illustrations for a book, reading to children, having children read to her).
- Organizational management/structure. The program is managed by a district coordinator, and a site director oversees each site. Site directors manage the day-to-day implementation of the program--making sure that teachers get their materials, the bus arrives on time, and breakfast is served. Typically, each site has a site director, approximately five teachers, a media specialist, a computer lab proctor, a cafeteria manager, and a bus driver for field trips.
Overall management is a team effort; the site directors meet once a week with the district coordinator, and the site director and teachers at each site meet at least once a week to discuss program issues. In addition, the staff receives occasional input from an oversight task force composed of the director of specially funded programs, the coordinators of alternative learning and summer enhancement programs, several principals, and a community representative.
- Parent and community involvement. Parents are invited to attend every day and to accompany children on field trips. At some sites, up to 80 percent of parents will participate in field trips, make presentations to the class, or simply visit during classtime. The program holds a family picnic each year. Each site invites community members who are not parents to an open house every Friday; on these days, program staff explain the program and display participants' work. At the end of the program, parents are invited to a final celebration that showcases each child's work.
- Professional environment. At the beginning of the school year, program directors meet with all teachers in the county to explain the program. Before the end of the school year, program administrators screen applicants to identify teachers who are innovative and have high expectations for their students. Preference is given to teachers who are trained in the Activities for Integrating Math and Science (AIMS) workshop. Before the program begins, teachers receive two days of inservice training that focuses on cooperative learning, activities that use math and science manipulatives, and the thematic units. Some teachers apply to work with the same students they serve during the year; others ask to teach at a different school or with different students.
- Funding. Funding for the program comes from Title I and from the local school board. The program receives no funds from local businesses or philanthropic organizations. In 1992, the per-pupil expenditure for the summer program was about $425.
- Assessment and accountability. The program design includes: (1) pre- and post-tests on mathematics concepts and problem-solving skills for each child; (2) review of student attendance records; (3) reading logs for each child and computer analysis of the number of books checked out at each media center; (4) tests on comprehension of the books children read; (5) a survey on reading attitudes; and (6) an evaluation of pre- and post-program writing samples. In addition, program staff survey overall student and parent attitudes to find out what they did and did not like about the program.
Each site has grappled with having to entice children to participate when they are not required to attend summer school. Some teachers hold a pizza party or provide ice cream on Fridays for students with perfect attendance. Others plan frequent field trips. At the program's onset, children were admitted if they were enrolled in Title I programs during the school year. In the third year of implementation, program staff reviewed the children who were enrolled and found that the children in grades four and five with the greatest need for the program were not attending. As a result, teachers began offering the attendance incentives.
Logistical issues are not a problem, according to a site director and the program coordinator. Most of the children in inner-city schools walk to the program; students who live more than three miles from the school ride on school buses provided by Title I. The sites have not had problems obtaining air conditioning, security, or other facility needs. At most sites, parents must make a commitment not to let family vacation plans conflict with a child's participation in the program.
Evidence of Success
The summer program's 1993 evaluation report showed that average daily attendance was 90 percent, higher than in previous summer programs. Pre- and post-tests on mathematical concepts indicated that 83 percent of the summer enhancement program students mastered basic outcomes--23 percent more than on the pretest. For mathematical problem-solving, 81 percent of the students mastered advanced outcomes, up 44 percent from the pretest. According to a computer analysis, in 1993 students in the program borrowed 12,413 books from the school libraries--an average of 30 books per student. Ninety-nine percent of the students reported an improved attitude toward reading after participating in the program.
[Year-Round Education with Intersession Programs]
[The Summer Institute for At-Risk Migrant Students]