CEO's Corner

Summer Academic Program Propels Student Success

Do you know any kids who love summer school? We do!

The need for summer learning has been documented in decades of research. Students residing in low-resource neighborhoods lose up to 2.6 months of math knowledge from the previous school year and up to 2 months of reading knowledge. These losses occur while students of other socio-economic groups are shown to either hold steady or even gain ground over the summer months, thanks to resources more readily available to them. It is important to note that these learning losses are cumulative, with students from low-resource areas falling further behind each summer.  

To combat summer learning loss, each year the Horizons for Youth staff and a team of top teachers conduct our Summer Academic Program. The program addresses individual student needs by providing effective interventions that keep our students engaged and excited about learning. Students in grades 1-9 spend all day with us for four weeks covering reading, language arts, math, and science. We work on freshening their skills, revisiting any challenging areas, and exploring topics they will learn in the coming school year. Classes are kept small, and each summer’s curriculum is designed to meet the needs of the individual students.

Without summer school, students residing in low-resource neighborhoods lose up to 2.6 months of math knowledge from the previous school year and up to 2 months of reading knowledge.

In addition to monitoring academic progress, personal development is also a key area of focus. We watch personal interactions and coach them on communication skills. Teachers observe classroom participation and support those lacking confidence in their academic or social skills. We take the time to investigate any areas of concern and provide additional counseling, tutoring or family resources as needed.

Special efforts are made throughout the program to encourage students to become critical thinkers, hard workers and good citizens. Affectionately referred to as “The Big 3,” these goals help students think about the whole person and push them to see themselves as both learners and leaders in our community.   

With all that we pack into a four-week program, the key to our success is that the kids love being there. We work hard to create an environment that is both challenging and nurturing, and that enables students to express themselves in creative ways. Rotating extra-curriculars include dance, swimming, and cooking, just to name a few. Students participate in physical education every day, providing the exercise needed to keep them healthy and to help them stay focused in the classroom. We also hire our own in-house chef, who prepares healthy and delicious meals for the students to enjoy. They love the food, which helps keep them happy the rest of the day.

90% of students surveyed wish to return to Horizons for Youth’s summer program the next year.

To make sure we are truly meeting the needs of our students, we assess their academic progress at the beginning and end of the program through standardized tests and teacher observations. We also survey students and their parents (anonymously, of course) to get their direct feedback on the program. I find the student surveys to be especially compelling, as only they can tell us how they really feel about the program. Year after year, they report on their increased understanding of subject areas and improved confidence in their skills. They also report whether they want to return the following summer, with over 90% of our students reporting that they want to return each year.

Interested in reading more about summer learning loss? You can review some of the most cited research on this topic here:

“Schools, Achievement, and Inequality: A Seasonal Perspective” by Karl L. Alexander, Doris R. Entwisle, Linda S. Olson, et al.

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