Once upon a time, summer school was the domain of a handful of students who had failed a course. Today, in Sonoma Valley, more than 1,000 students (or almost 25 percent of all K-12 students) typically participate in some form of free summer program hosted on a district site as a means of preventing summer learning loss, catching up and getting ahead.
Extensive research has shown that most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math skills over the summer months, and that low-income students also lose more than two months in reading skills. In fact, some research shows that more than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities.
To this end, over the last three years, the Sonoma school district has dramatically expanded its summer learning options for students at all grade levels.
The district’s Summer Reading Academy for first, second and third graders takes place at El Verano Elementary School. Last year, the program enrolled 100 students, three hours a day for three weeks. This year, the Academy has been expanded to provide more of a summer camp experience, with additional enrichment options, and it will serve 300 students for six hours a day, from June 11 to July 11.
At last fall’s Sonoma Vintners & Growers Harvest Wine Auction, the fund-a-need bidding raised almost $700,000, with the goal of ensuring that 90 percent of Sonoma County’s third-grade students are proficient in reading by 2018. The funds were split among three county reading programs. The Sonoma Valley Education Foundation received $346,000 and about half of that went toward the expansion of the Summer Reading Academy.