By Terry Dean
Second- and third-graders who participated in District 97's summer school program this year showed a two-point gain in reading test scores this fall, an increase from last spring, according to D97 officials.
The two-point gain was made on the district's MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test, which is given to students three times a year. Fall MAP scores are typically lower than the spring's scores, said Lisa Schwartz, D97's director of instruction and assessment. The MAP tests — one of a handful of assessments given to students in the district — focuses on reading and math.
The reading gains this year, Schwartz says, shows that the district's new approach to summer school is working for kids.
Renamed Prep for Success, the summer school model was revamped last year, moving summer school from June to July, closer to the start of the upcoming school year. The program, which runs five weeks, was also expanded from three days a week to five, with longer instruction time. The "early start" model was meant to help better prepare students for the upcoming school year, D97 officials said.
A total of 202 students from pre-K to seventh grade participated in Prep for Success last summer. D97's summer school program is not mandatory. Just over 500 students were "invited" to participate, kids whose grades and test scores indicate they are falling behind. Teachers can also recommend a student's participation.
Thirty-six second-graders attended out of 92 who were invited, along with 31 third-graders out of 62 invited.
While gains were made in reading, those students showed a slight decrease in math MAP scores. Students in grades four through seven who participated last summer showed slight gains in both reading and math, according to D97's data, which was released last week.
"One of things we'd say is that it is having some impact, it looks like, for those students who did attend because I'm guessing if we didn't have the program, we would have a higher number of students falling well below benchmarks," Schwartz said.
The majority of students recommended for the program last summer were black. Low-income students made up about 62 percent of participants. Students with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs), about 60 in all, made up 30 percent of participants last summer.
Schwartz said the district is looking at ways to get more of the invited students to participate, including more outreach to parents.