Pioneering Summer School Program Expands as Young Students Make Substantial Gains
For the third consecutive year, young students have benefited significantly from the Family Success Alliance (FSA) summer enrichment program, according to a new evaluation report from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. FPG’s report highlights student growth in several areas.
“Math, literacy, and classroom skills significantly improved for the children who entered kindergarten, first grade, and second grade this fall,” said FPG senior research scientist Margaret Burchinal, who led the evaluation of the program. “Language skills also improved for rising kindergartners.”
FSA’s summer enrichment program is designed to close the opportunity gap for students whose families are struggling to make ends meet. Burchinal said FPG’s evaluation of the program last year showed it had a positive effect on attention and basic literacy skills for all children in English, as well as on language and literacy skills in Spanish.
“Children who made the largest gains entered the program with lower skill levels, suggesting it is most successful for the students who need it most,” she explained. “We also found that these gains were not lost during the ensuing school year.”
This past summer, FSA partnered again with Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools and Orange County Schools to serve kindergartners, while expanding the program to serve rising first and second graders. At two elementary schools in Orange County, FSA enrolled 92 students in a four-week program that focused on promoting self-regulation skills, attention, and academic skills, while also providing children with meals and time to play.
According to Burchinal, across grade levels the proportion of students at or above state benchmarks for their grade roughly doubled from the beginning to end of the summer camp.
Burchinal added that the program’s design has fostered a reciprocal relationship between the teachers and scientists who evaluate the program. “Rather than having the researchers decide what the children were supposed to learn, we focused on how well children learned what the teachers said they were going to teach in the summer program.”
Rising kindergartners participated this year from FPG Bilingüe, Carrboro, Northside, and New Hope elementary schools, while New Hope also served children entering first and second grade.
Coby Jansen Austin, FSA’s director of programs and policy, said teaming with researchers at UNC has helped to improve the summer program.
“FSA places a high value on measuring the quality of its programs, including outcomes for individuals and at population-level,” Austin said. “Funding agencies increasingly expect local service groups to demonstrate the impact of the services and programs they implement, and the FSA-UNC partnership was designed to provide data for us to continuously evaluate, adapt, and improve services.”
FSA brings together community members, schools, local government agencies, non-profits, and other community leaders who are committed to ensuring that all children in Orange County have the opportunity to thrive in school, jobs, and community. A core group of staff located at the Orange County Health Department facilitates the work.
“By giving kids a leg-up, we believe we can do our part to not only help close the opportunity gap but provide the chance for these kids to reach their full potential as members and leaders of our vibrant community,” said Austin. “The Family Success Alliance has prioritized the need for equity from the onset of a child’s academic career in helping children feel successful and be successful throughout their educational journey and into college and career.”
Photo: The Carrboro Elementary School's "Ready for K" graduation (by Kristin Prelipp).