A CLEAR Educational Gain
For children who struggle in school, summer is a perilous time. Unless those kids use their learning muscles in July and August, they may lose some of the strength they developed during the past school year.
That’s why the Milford Central School District created the Career, Learning, Enrichment and Academic Readiness (CLEAR) program. Designed for at-risk middle school students—kids entering grades five through eight—CLEAR mixes work and fun in a four-week program that fights learning loss in English language arts (ELA) and math.
In 2015, CLEAR ran for three hours a day, Monday through Thursday, for four weeks in July.
CLEAR’s teachers built their educational activities around a summer camp theme. “The kids were divided into three learning communities, based on age and ability. Each community designed its own ‘cabin,’ its own cabin cheer and its own flag,” says Dara Rhodes, CLEAR program coordinator.
When one group read a novel about surviving in the wilderness, a New York State forest ranger came to demonstrate basic survival skills; then the students went outside to practice them. A math teacher working with the seventh and eighth graders reviewed multiplication and division while leading an activity about stargazing.
Students also wrestled with challenges meant to build collaboration and communications skills. For instance, during a field trip to nearby Betty and Wilbur Davis State Park, students tied on blindfolds and then headed out to explore a nature trail under the guidance of a few non-blindfolded peers. “They had to navigate, find specific coordinates, answer questions and then do a puzzle at the end,” Rhodes says.
The Milford District launched CLEAR with funding from New York State in 2014. “When that funding ended, we did not have any funding for a summer program,” says Lorre Gregory, a grant writer and media specialist with the district. A $14,971 grant from the Community Foundation made it possible to continue CLEAR in 2015.
That investment paid off for the 31 students who completed the program. “The teachers developed pre- and post-tests, based on the New York State assessment exams, and administered them during the first and final weeks of the program,” Rhodes says. The tests showed that the students made academic gains in July.
The Community Foundation’s support provided a valuable bridge for the Milford Schools, keeping CLEAR alive while the district sought a more permanent funding source. “Without the grant,” Gregory says, “we would not have had a summer school for these students.”