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.
Program director Diane Dallenberg was thrilled with feedback from parents after last summer. In post-program surveys, parents remarked that their children exhibited more confidence in their reading, higher self-esteem and greater enthusiasm for reading on their own.
There is a Summer Program for Special Day Classroom students in grades K-5 every year. Hosted at Sassarini, this three-week morning program is designed for students who have an IEP (individualized education plan), and for students with learning disabilities, to retain prior learning. Middle and High School Special Day Class summer programs are also offered each summer. The programs run from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. from June 12 to July 18.
For the past several years, the district has also offered a program designed to help students with the transition into middle school or into high school. The Transitions Summer School, for fifth and eighth graders, is hosted at Altimira Middle School, and each day includes two hours of literacy and two hours of math. This program also runs mornings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. from June 12 to July 11. More than 150 students participate each year.
This summer, Altimira Middle School will host the district’s Accelerated Language Academy for fourth and sixth grade students for whom English is not their first language. This morning program runs June 12 through July 11 and it is designed to support California English Learning Development Test (CELDT) intermediate students.
Summer School at Sonoma Valley High School will run from June 12 through July 18 this year. Hundreds of students who need to retake a course, or are missing a credit for graduation, sign up for English, math and science classes, and some classes are taken by students who choose to fulfill requirements during the summer for scheduling reasons. Students who failed to successfully complete their senior project on time also enroll in summer school in order to receive their diploma. For details, go to Sonomavalleyhigh.org.