The Meriden Public Schools, centrally located two hours from New York and Boston, is an urban district with 8,600 students, 67% minority and 71% of students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals. For the past five years, we have been actively engaged in transforming the district into student-centered learning environments. (Learn more about this transformation: Meriden Public Schools: Here, Students Succeed.)
Integral to this process was the district’s embrace of 1:1 devices, personalized learning, student ownership and anytime, anywhere learning. With strong union support, coupled with extensive professional learning, teachers have become comfortable in their role as facilitators, rather than standing in front of the room delivering lessons to rows of students sitting quietly at their desks. Students are no longer passive or bored. Rather, they are enthusiastically participating in learning, either researching a topic on the Internet, working collaboratively with their classmates to solve a problem, or benefiting from direct instruction.
Challenged to take charge of their learning in a culture that promotes a "no zero" policy and open access to all higher-level courses, students are succeeding. Scores are the highest in history, referrals have dramatically decreased, chronic absenteeism has declined and student, teacher, and parent satisfaction on Climate Surveys are at all-time highs.
Yet, while Meriden’s elementary students continued to show substantial gains on standardized testing measures, we were still concerned about a lack of learning over the summer months. This "summer slide" was a challenge that needed to be addressed. If all students were going to have the best opportunity to experience success, we knew we needed to create summer learning opportunities for our students. The key to a successful school experience lies in a student’s ability to learn how to read in the early grades and, most importantly, to enjoy reading.
So what did we do?
Meriden created MPS Summer Learning Adventure, a K–3 summer school program that combines high-interest reading with personalized learning and use of technology as an educational tool. Students in all grades had personal reading goals. All students participated in daily small group guided reading instruction with appropriate instructional level text. A concerted effort was made to select interesting, exciting illustrated books that captured children’s attention and promoted a love of reading. Comprehension strategies were practiced and monitored at all grade levels. Students followed a personalized reading pathway and worked together to create visual presentations that focused on main idea and details, as well as story summaries. Students demonstrated their learning in a hands-on, fun and engaging way that allowed them to share their reading with their classmates.
All students read preselected adventure book sets based on their Lexile level. Students set Lexile goals, graphed their Lexile progress and journaled about their reading. Students were able to personalize and take charge of their own learning.
The Summer Learning Adventure culminating activity was one of the most unique and exciting activities of the session. All the students were invited to the gymnasium to join the Superintendent in his “reading nook” furnished with a large rocking chair, a lamp and a small braided rug. He read a Scholastic book and interacted with over 300 students. After the read-aloud, every student received a backpack filled with Scholastic books to take home. Students received books that would be highlighted in their classrooms the following year. Students were thrilled to receive their own personal books to read at home. They were eager to meet their favorite character, Clifford the Big Red Dog, who high-fived each student as they left the gymnasium.
Seeing the students' excitement when they received their own backpack full of books was proof that our summer program had clearly met its goal of supporting and encouraging reading. While building a love of reading is reason enough to launch a high-quality literacy summer program, pre-test and post-test growth of 20 Lexile levels validated our efforts to avoid the “summer slide.”
Don't let another summer slide away; you too can create excitement for reading and launch your creative summer reading program.