Schools

LASD's new camp aims to improve reading skills for kids who fell behind during the school year


Courtesy of Los Altos School District
Teacher Vanessa Jordan works with two students on reading instruction. The Los Altos School District’s new Challenger Camp aims to reduce the summer slide.

The Los Altos School District’s new Challenger Camp comes to a close this week, and the eight-week program to help children improve their reading skills has been a success.

Allison Whitney, one of the district teachers leading classes at the camp, said that of the 17 students she worked with for more than three weeks, “13 of them showed growth through the running record assessments … a regular check-in that assesses fluency and comprehension.”

Whitney added that the summer camp “is like getting the opportunity to work with these students for a full quarter of a school year.”

Operated in partnership with the Silicon Valley YMCA, the camp for students in grades 1-8 began June 11 and is slated to end Friday at Santa Rita School.

“Our goal was to stop summer learning loss and actively improve the reading skills of our most struggling readers,” Assistant Superintendent Sandra McGonagle wrote in an email to the Town Crier.

The summer program combines a variety of educational and recreational activities, including outdoor games and crafts, with 35-50 minutes of daily small-group reading intervention led by district teachers.

The free, invitation-only camp was at capacity; 125 students from throughout the district participated.

“We look at multiple points of data that we have about students to determine whether or not they are going to be eligible,” said Greg Drummond, the district’s coordinator for curriculum and instruction. “We look for students who are most at risk academically, particularly in the area of reading.”

Challenger Camp uses the Level Literacy Intervention program from the Fountas and Pinnell guided reading method. Whitney described it as a “game changer” for her students both in the program and in her classes throughout the academic year at Egan Junior High School.

“I have never seen or experienced as much success in literacy intervention as I have with this program,” she said. “Looking at my data from this past school year, of my (12) eighth-graders who just graduated, I had eight reading at grade level by the time they graduated, and the rest were very close. Challenger Camp provides the same opportunities for the students.”

According to Whitney, Challenger Camp helps teachers provide students with additional tools to improve their literacy at an early age.

She noted that campers were placed in groups based on their reading level. At the end of the camp, the students will be assessed by the teachers and sent back to their home schools with information “about what kind of goals they have, what kind of development we’ve seen, areas of improvement that we want them to continue working on, and the reading level that the students have left off on,” she said.

The results of Challenger Camp will be reported to the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees this month, McGonagle said.

“We would love to expand the opportunities to more students in the future and perhaps even include new content. ... Right now we are really just focused on seeing what worked and replicating that next year in whatever way we can,” Drummond said.

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