Over the summer, Oak Park Elementary Schools District 97 exchanged its free Prep for Success summer program for the Oak Park Education Foundation’s BASE Camp as a way to provide remedial summer school enrichment to third- through eighth-graders. 

The district signed a one-year contract with the OPEF, with any future contract contingent on how well the transition went this year. According to initial feedback from parents, students and teachers — compiled in a 44-page report by Stephen Baker, a researcher at the University of Chicago — the preliminary results of the switch are promising. 

Part of the reason why the district opted to drop Prep for Success was because of the program’s low attendance and participation levels. In the summer of 2016, 182 out of the 269 students who enrolled in Prep for Success completed the program — an over 30 percent dropout rate. 

This summer, 115 D97 third- through eighth-graders who would have otherwise participated in Prep for Success enrolled in BASE Camp programs, with the district paying around $134,000 to cover the costs of their participation over four weeks. 

According to Baker’s report, 81 percent of those students had high attendance at BASE Camp, which was defined as showing up for 14 out of 19 days of camp. Fifty-five percent of D97 summer remedial students who enrolled in BASE Camp were black, a 10 percent increase over the percentage that enrolled in Prep for Success in 2016.

Baker wrote that along with the OPEF’s expansion of its own scholarship program, the addition of D97 summer school students “created substantially new levels of ethnic diversity within the BASE Camp population as a whole.” 

At the end of BASE Camp, a voluntary survey was administered to the parents of participants. Thirteen parents who responded to the survey reported that their children had also participated in D97’s summer school in previous years and all of them had positive comments about how the BASE Camp experience compared to years past.

Five parents, however, “had some reservations, primarily about measurable academic impact for their child, including on test scores,” Baker said. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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