After a year of mostly remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Evanston/Skokie School District expanded 65 summer learning programs in 2021, but far fewer families chose to participate than officials expected.
The 2021 Summer Learning Report, included with meeting materials for the December 6 Curriculum and Policy Committee meeting, said 568 students were enrolled in Summer Learning, equivalent to only 54% of the 1,049 General Education Program seats. There were 323 students in the 533 available seats. for special education (61% filled).
The report noted that “some programs are also struggling to maintain an attendance rate of 80%”, particularly those that serve older students or that were scheduled to run for five to six weeks versus three weeks.
At the committee meeting on December 6, Stacey Beardsley, assistant superintendent of curriculum and education, said anecdotal explanations for low enrollment rates ranged from reluctance to return to school due to fear of exposure to COVID-19 to parents deciding, “We just need a break and we can finally Take a road trip to see some family.”
One of the challenges that attracted participants identified by Beardsley was to offer “the kind of summer learning that would engage our middle school students. … You need more engaging programs and better opportunities that children really want to participate in.”
Beardsley’s presentation included a slide outlining the priority learning groups identified by the Illinois State Board of Education: early childhood, special education, emerging bilinguals, students facing homelessness, those with free or reduced lunch status, and students who demonstrated a lack of participation in current learning models. Beardsley added that District 65 also prioritizes students who have performed below grade level.
In previous years, summer learning was focused on mitigating summer learning loss and serving students who did not meet grade level expectations or who did not have access to academic enrichment opportunities.
But in 2021, the vision for the Summer Learning Program was to “accelerate the achievement of students who have been negatively affected by the pandemic learning,” according to Beardsley, who added that “part of learning on the job during the summer was helping get kids back to school in a positive and productive way.” This facilitates the transition back to learning in school buildings.”
The demographic breakdown of students enrolled in the 2021 Summer Learning Programs was 39% Black, 41% Hispanic, 4% Multiracial, 12% White and 3% Asian, with 66% eligible for free or reduced-fee lunch.
Summer Learning for District 65 in 2019 and 2020
In the summer of 2019, the district served a significantly higher number of students, 958 students in total, according to a RoundTable article dated January 9, 2020. Of that total, 325 students were enrolled in the Extended School Year Program for Students with Disabilities who were eligible for summer services through the Summer Services Program. their individual education. The remaining 633 students were recommended by principals and teachers to participate in non-compulsory general education programs focused on improving literacy, mathematics, and social and emotional learning, as well as increasing access to enrichment opportunities. The demographics of learners in Summer 2019 were 40% Black, 31% Hispanic, 16% White, 7% Multiracial and 4% Asian, with 67% eligible for free or reduced-fee lunch.
In 2020, District 65’s summer learning plans have been hampered by “uncertainty as to when in-person learning will resume,” according to a report included in materials for a school board meeting on November 16, 2020.
Superintendent Devon Horton has initiated the 2020 Sylvan Summer Scholarship Program to provide additional academic support to selected students, who have been identified by early assessment data or considered to be engaged during distance learning. Families of selected Summer Learning candidates were notified of the scholarship opportunity, valued at $1,500, which included reading and math enrichment courses using the Zoom platform, with eight to 10 students per instructor.
A November 2020 report said 73 students completed the Sylvan Summer Program that year, with 63% of students showing growth in math and 50% in reading. Additionally, 647 special education students and bilingual junior students were introduced by the district that summer. The number of students literate in the summer was 43% Black, 28% Hispanic, 17% White, 8% Multiracial and 4% Asian.
2021 Partner selection and accountability
Seventeen summer programs were offered in 2021, seven of which were for special education students. Nine were selected through a formal request for proposals and review process. The nine external public education partners were Sylvan Learning of Skokie-Niles, Exploratory Learning by Creating Outdoor Learning Spaces, Huntington Tutoring, Jumpstart ECC, Summer Literacy Intensive, Newcomers Program, and TWI Enrichment: Bessie Rhodes, YMCA Summer Learning Program and YMCA Summer STEAM.
At the December 6 meeting, Beardsley said that each of the nine programs focus on achieving pre-defined SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Based); Four achieved and five partially achieved their goals. Beardsley said her team looked for partners who could afford “academic outcomes, especially literacy and math. But also STEM competencies as well as social-emotional learning.”
Board Member Sergio Hernandez stressed the importance of selecting programs that align with the district’s standards-based learning objectives and “high fidelity instruction.” Superintendent Horton agreed, adding that the district should calculate a “return on investment” that takes into account program costs, goals achieved, and student outcomes.
Beardsley stated that “the strength of [Request for Proposal] It is spreading the network more widely, because it is likely that we will establish new partnerships that can meet needs we have not yet met.” She called for continuing to fine-tune the proposal evaluation process to ensure the “strongest programs possible.”
budget and finance
The proposed budget to fund the 1,049 public education program seats in 2021 was $1,179,636, with $204,400 from Title I and Title III federal funds (funds for low-income and English-educated students, respectively), $613,789 from the Federal Elementary and High School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) and $360,347 in local funds.
Given low enrollment rates, only 57.4% of public education money budgeted for the summer of 2021 was spent, according to a Beardsley report.
Although only 61% of the assigned Special Services program seats were filled, 99% of the $395,011 budget was spent. Beardsley said at the meeting that the area faced unexpected transportation costs due to a new bus contract, as well as “additional monitors and [personal protective equipment] Costs associated with COVID-related safety precautions” to accommodate the additional second summer learning session (funded by ESSER).
Based on lower-than-expected enrollment for the summer of 2021, Beardsley said that fewer seats – although still larger than pre-pandemic numbers – will be offered in 2022, which will reduce the amount of funding needed.
The proposed budget for summer 2022 is $550,000, Beardsley says, of which $450,000 is already earmarked in the district budget and the remaining $100,000 will come from Title One funds. An additional $280,000 for special education programs is included in the district’s budget.
Beardsley acknowledged that the proposed budgets are subject to change, as was the case with the transportation adjustment last summer. “If we have to continue to take on some of the same costs, additional staffing in place and things like that, we may need to adjust them upwards.”
In planning for Summer 2022, the Beardsley team is evaluating the feasibility of streamlining and streamlining the registration process. The December report includes mention of a potential open enrollment window of two to three weeks “which could be followed by student placement in programs based on priority indicators, including free and reduced lunch status and the student’s academic need, as measured by MAP [Measures of Academic Progress] Assess.”
Beardsley said program proposal evaluations and a subsequent list of recommended summer learning programs will be presented to the board in mid-January, with summer learning program options being promoted to begin during parent conferences in February.