Dillon Valley Elementary to test summer teaching, same two-year class through pilot program  | SummitDaily.com

Dillon Valley Elementary to test summer teaching, same two-year class through pilot program 

Effort aims to mitigate learning loss during summer, build connections with families

The Summit School District Administration Building in Frisco is pictured Nov. 12, 2020.
Liz Copan/Summit Daily News archive

Dillon Valley Elementary is eyeing the launch of a two-year pilot program that will provide teaching to a set group of students from second to third grade and into the summer. 

Superintendent Tony Byrd said he was recently approached by Dillon Valley Principal Kendra Carpenter who expressed interest in running the pilot, which would see her teach the same group of students for the next two years including four additional weeks in the summer. The class will learn in both English and Spanish. 

“I thought it was a bold move to test how we might extend learning time into particular times of the year as a pilot,” Byrd said during a March 23 Summit Board of Education meeting, “and I think it’s incredibly bold for a principal to step up and say, ‘I’m going to go into a classroom and see if we can do this.’”

Carpenter said the main goals of the pilot are to mitigate learning loss during what she called the “summer slide,” the period between ending one grade and starting another. This, coupled with retaining the same students for the next two years, is expected to boost learning time and build stronger connections between students, parents and staff, Carpenter said. 

Carpenter pointed to Dillon Valley data that she said highlights the need for the pilot. Test results from STAR, a literacy assessment program used by the district, show declines in results between spring and fall semesters for grades first through fifth. 

Specifically, first grade scores were down 79%, second grade scores were down 41%, third grade scores were down 30%, and fourth and fifth grade scores were down 49%.

“When we return, sometimes it can take almost three months to get them back to where we were in the spring, and we can’t afford to lose that time,” Carpenter said. “My hope is, for staying for the extended year, we won’t see such a significant decline.”

Along with an extra four weeks of learning in the summer, the program will also be able to offer meals to students through the federal funding for free and reduced lunches, “which is really another bonus for any of our families with food insecurity in the summer,” she said. 

According to Carpenter, elementary school data shows that English-learning students and students receiving free and reduced lunches are generally getting lower test scores. Board member Johanna Kugler said while a pilot program can help meet the needs of struggling students, she also wants to avoid creating conceptions. 

“We definitely want to make sure we’re giving the resource to those kids who desperately, desperately, need it,” Kugler said. “But are we also creating a stigma of the kids who are in your class? I want to make sure we’re thinking about how that will look.”

Avoiding stigma remains a priority, Carpenter said the pilot has attracted a “balance of families,” who were given the opportunity to opt into it, “which is also part of making it a successful classroom. We want it to look like the other classrooms,” Carpenter said.

Board member Chris Guarino said he was excited to see the results of the pilot, which is expected to launch this summer. Estimated to cost about $50,000 to run for the next two years, officials signaled that the pilot could be expanded for school and grades across the district, depending on the results.

“What an amazing opportunity it could be for our students,” Guarino said, though he acknowledged scaling the program could be a challenge. 

“To scale it up to all schools, all grades … that’s just a concern that we would need to keep in mind,” he said. “But that doesn’t sway me from all this.”

For Carpenter, the pilot provides an opportunity to invest in a crucial period of learning for district students.

“I really feel that it is our responsibility to create change that impacts the success and experience for our students in Summit School District,” she said, “and we have that power to make that difference.”

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