This comprehensive city-wide effort embedded literacy into summer learning

 Story by Art Garcia

As part of Read Fort Worth’s Summer Scholars Collaborative, Fort Worth ISD along with the City of Fort Worth and community partners came together to help prepare students heading into the current school year. The massive mobilization of resources and time provided literacy instruction, along with transportation, food and physical spaces, for summer programs around Fort Worth.

FWISD’s “Summer Launch,” which is part of the Summer Scholars Collaborative (SSC), was led the Dr. David Saenz, Chief of Innovation for the District.

“It was a cross-functional effort,” Dr. Saenz said. “It was planting the flag that we were going to be in-person this summer. That’s where it started. There was a time that we were still thinking of doing a virtual option for most of our summer programs, and we went away from that to doing in-person.”

P1023680The District felt that having students on-site was the most effective way to accelerate learning going into the new school year. More than 15,000 students were initially enrolled, nearly evenly distributed between K-8th grade and high school.

Stipends were given to teachers and staff who worked over the summer. FWISD prepared campuses, arranged for food services and offered busing for students. The logistical challenges were immense, as the Summer Launch program operated at 63 sites across the District. About 12,000 students attended consistently throughout the summer.

“The only way we could have accomplished this during the summer is with our community partners,” Dr. Saenz said. “We’re not the only show in town, so why not invest the rest of our community in educating our kids.”

FWISD and Read Fort Worth created continuity between what students study in the classroom and what they study in extended learning programs. One of the examples of this alignment was FWISD leading professional development and training for all SSC Literacy Support Specialists who provided daily literacy instruction to students. The training focused on foundational literacy, such as phonics and providing a scientific approach to learning for non-educators.

Community partners were provided a best practice rubric. Read Fort Worth and FWISD created a list of literacy concepts that children in each grade should learn and practice. For example, a camp instructor working with a student moving from kinder to first grade knew exactly want skills to focus on. This road map helped provide students with the tools needed to make the progression in grade successfully.

“For us, that was a win because we knew they were using what we gave them and being intentional in their approach,” said Dr. Marcey Sorensen, Assistant Superintendent, Teaching & Learning at FWISD.

P1024288The goal is to keep building those partnerships over the long term. Many of the students that attend FWISD schools and summer programs are also part of after school programs.

“We want to continue to work with our after school partners to develop their capacity around our literacy framework and our literacy strategies,” Dr. Sorensen said. “That way kids who are in extended learning opportunities throughout the year are really grounded in evidenced based practices that continue to move them forward rather than remediate.”

That year around approach has already led to planning for next summer and beyond. Dr. Saenz envisions a more robust system with even more buy-in from partners across the city.

“What we learned is it can be done,” he said. “Taking what we learned this summer and knowing we had a lot of interest, we can start planning now and launching into a comprehensive summer learning plan for all of Fort Worth.”