Duval County to Participate in Major National Project | Schools

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Duval County to Participate in Major National Project

Students from low-income Jacksonville neighborhoods are taking part in improved summer learning programs this summer as Duval County is one of six school districts nationwide selected to be part of The Wallace Foundation’s national Summer Learning Initiative.

The Summer Learning Initiative is a multi-year, $50 million effort to provide much-needed experience and evidence on how schools can end the damage from summer learning loss, which leaves many students several years behind by the time they enter high school.

With the Wallace grant support, Duval County Public Schools has added staffing for enrichment activities in the existing Superintendent’s Academies, which operate in six schools and provide intensive reading, math, science and enrichment.  Wallace’s support has also enabled the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, a city agency, to hire additional staff to expand the enrichment offerings.

In Duval County, 1,450 students are receiving reading, writing and math instruction along with enrichment activities such as art, music, athletics and community service. The program began June 21 and runs for a total of six weeks through July 29. The program is for the turnaround schools that greatly benefit from additional learning time for students. The program is in its third year and has shown some very promising results in achievement for students.

Duval County was selected from more than 25 urban districts to be part of The Wallace Foundation’s Summer Learning Initiative, which continues through summer 2014. It was selected because the district already operates a large summer learning program aimed at reducing summer learning loss.

“Our district is very fortunate to receive these funds to expand and improve the services we provide to our students over the critical summer months,” said Duval County Public Schools’ Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals. “It is extremely important for our students to maintain the level at which they learn throughout the year by participating in summer enrichment activities that will continue to challenge their minds and advance their education.”

The six districts, including Duval, will use their Wallace grants to strengthen their programs, starting with students who will be fourth-graders in the fall. Based on evidence gathered this summer, researchers from the RAND Corporation will help school leaders identify improvements for next summer.  Plans include Wallace support for improvements over all four summers, through 2014.

In 2013 and 2014, researchers will begin tracking students’ progress to see what difference two years of summer learning programs make and how long the effects last.

The effort is part of The Wallace Foundation’s summer learning initiative, which aims to combat “summer learning loss” or “summer slide.” Research has long documented that over the three-month summer vacation, students forget some of what they have learned during the previous school year.

Low-income students suffer bigger losses than others, and because these losses mount with each passing summer, summer slide contributes to the gap in academic achievement between them and other students.  

The Wallace Foundation is kicking off this effort with approximately $2.7 million for the six districts to use for program improvements this summer and for making plans for more extensive improvements next summer.  Wallace’s grants are expected to increase once the districts and RAND researchers identify the programs’ greatest needs, which are expected to differ among the cities.

The five other school districts are located in Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Rochester.

The six districts, including Duval, were selected after MDRC, a nonprofit research firm, gathered information on programs in more than 25 urban districts. Wallace’s criteria for the districts were that: they already have a major summer learning program in place, using local resources; place a priority on eliminating summer learning loss; and will participate in the rigorous study of the programs’ effects.

Duval County Public Schools operates 172 schools and serves approximately 123,000 students. The school district is committed to providing high quality educational opportunities that will inspire all students to acquire and use the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in a global economy, and culturally diverse world.


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