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

The Summer Institute for At-Risk Migrant Students

Florida Department of Education.
Tallahassee, Florida

Key Characteristics


The Summer Institute for At-Risk Migrant Students, a residential program sponsored by the Florida Department of Education, provides six weeks of intensive coursework and tutoring for 330 to 350 students. The institute, which evolved from a 1985 pilot project, is held at three Florida universities and targets middle and high school students as well as dropouts. Its goal is to help migrant students compensate for absences and partial credits, stay in school, and obtain a high school diploma. Participants work with guidance counselors to develop individualized goals for the summer, typically focusing on completing a specific credit toward promotion or graduation, or on remediation in reading, math, and other subjects.

School Context

This statewide program draws students from schools with high concentrations of migrant students. In 1992-93, the 330 participating students came from more than 80 schools and 30 different school districts. The number of participants varies each year, based on available funding. Most (83 percent) of the students are Hispanic; 11 percent are African American, 4 percent are Asian American (primarily Vietnamese), and 2 percent are Anglo. Participants are in grades 6-12, or are dropouts.

The summer institute expanded a local pilot program, responding to findings that being overage in grade was the most significant factor contributing to the dropout rate. To identify the migrant students at greatest risk of dropping out of school, the state department of education developed an identification and tracking system that determines the dropout risk for migrant students attending all Florida public schools based on (1) the number of years a student is placed below grade level according to age, (2) the number of school absences and interruptions, (3) English language proficiency, and (4) the extent of academic deficiencies determined by standardized tests and grades.

Major Program Features

Implementation Issues

The program design reflects lessons learned from the 1985 pilot project, which failed to attract significant numbers of at-risk migrant students. A survey found three reasons: (1) Since migrant parents move frequently during the summer, a day program was not practical for them, (2) parents expected older children to work in the fields to assist the family financially, and (3) students needed credits that would count toward high school graduation not just remediation of skills.

In response to the survey, the program changed before expanding statewide. The format was modified from a day program to a residential program, so students could stay while their parents traveled and worked during the summer. Students were provided automatic and earned stipends, thereby enabling migrant families to offset some of their children's lost potential earnings. Noncredit remedial courses were replaced by courses that carry credit toward high school graduation.

Program developers decided that the program should be held on a college campus to familiarize migrant students with college life and eliminate the sense of intimidation many students felt. The state department of education announced a proposal request to all colleges in the state, and program staff selected three universities on the basis of their record serving disadvantaged students and whether they could provide sufficient resources. Participants are treated as college students, with full access to the institution's recreational facilities, library, labs, and computer centers. By interacting with other college students, participants learn that a college education is within their reach.

According to the program coordinator, some critics originally feared that students would not be able to stay focused during the long days; in student evaluations at the end of the program, participants have requested more free time. However, program staff wanted to include as many classroom opportunities as possible to help students make up for lost time. The coordinator said that the institutes are able to motivate students by enabling them to concentrate on learning activities because the program meets most of the students' needs for health, nutritional, social, financial, and other support services.

Evidence of Success

A four-year longitudinal study of students who participated in the program between 1988 and 1991 showed that 89 percent of the high school students who completed the program stayed in school and graduated, compared with 54 percent of a control group. Similar results were recorded for middle grade students, with program participants showing dropout rates of 0 percent for seventh graders and 2 percent for eighth graders; of control group students, 12 percent dropped out in seventh grade and 24 percent did so in eighth grade. In addition, program administrators have anecdotal evidence that the institutes have improved migrant students' attitudes and perceptions about school so that they now see high school graduation as an important goal.
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