The Oak Park Elementary School District 97 school board recently adopted a new programming model for summer 2018. The new model is similar to the programing the district implemented last year when it partnered with the Oak Park Education Foundation to offer BASE Camp to 115 third- through eighth-graders. 

This year, however, OPEF is out of the picture, with D97 opting to create its own interactive learning program for fifth- through eighth-graders at a cost of no more than $125,000. The program, which the school board approved at its Dec. 19 regular meeting, will be offered in conjunction with optional, fee-based wraparound services provided by Oak Park Township and the Park District of Oak Park.

The new Summer Launch program, which is scheduled to run from June 13 through July 11, will also feature an expanded version of the half-day reading and writing workshop offered to students in kindergarten through second grade last year. 

This year, the program will be offered to students in kindergarten through fourth grade and will feature an additional hour-long math component that will extend the day by 30 minutes. Kindergarten through fourth-graders will also be allowed access to the optional, fee-based services provided by the township and park district. 

The school district has reformatted its summer programming twice in the last three years. Last year, the district traded its free Prep for Success summer program for OPEF’s Base Camp. 

Prep for Success was created in 2012 to provide extra classroom-based supports in reading and math to students performing below grade level. But district officials said at the time they were not satisfied with the program’s low attendance and participation rates. They also said the program did not lead to enough academic gains among its participants. 

BASE Camp was billed as a progressive alternative to Prep for Success, which allowed low-performing students access to more hands-on, experiential learning in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Some BASE Camp themes included “Art Around the World,” “Coding for Kids” and “LEGO Pre-Engineering.” 

The district entered a one-year, $134,000 contract with OPEF to facilitate the programming. Students who enrolled were not charged anything. Both the district and OPEF agreed that the contract would be extended for another year based on the program’s success in raising summer school students’ program attendance and participation, and increasing their performance on tests, among other key academic indicators. 

According to data provided by D97 officials, the percentage of students with high attendance rates for the 2017 Summer Launch program in grades K-2 and 3-8 increased overall by 2 percent and 4 percent, respectively, compared to the 2016 Prep for Success rates. The high attendance rate among students in grades 6-8 for 2017, however, dipped by 3 percent in comparison with Prep for Success. 

Officials said that, since the programs weren’t evaluated using the same assessments, they can’t make a direct comparison of the growth in academic performance between Prep for Success and Summer Launch. 

They said K-2 Summer Launch participants showed greater improvements than Prep for Success students on the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), a set of procedures for measuring the acquisition of early literacy skills in kindergarten through sixth-grade students. 

In addition, overall MAP performance in reading and math was higher among third- through eighth-grade Summer Launch participants than among Prep for Success participants, officials said. 

In an email statement released in December, Tracy Dell’Angela Barber, OPEF’s executive director, said that, considering the success of the pilot program, her organization was “very much interested in serving Summer Launch again this summer” and “wanted to build on that success and refine the program in important ways.” 

Barber added that, while D97 only wanted OPEF to serve middle-grade students, her organization had “hoped to expand even deeper into elementary grades.” She said there were also “a number of unresolved issues in how the district would partner with us to best serve students with disabilities.” 

“That being said, we are committed to making BASE camp an option for all students in D97, regardless of financial barriers and learning needs,” Barber pointed out. 

For this year, however, D97 is going to design its summer programming in-house.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com  

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