While many students across the school district were enjoying summer vacation, Prestwood School was serving as the home of the Summer Literacy Academy, a four-week program funded by the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation. It was designed to help students in grades K through 3 who are behind in reading, with the goal of raising their reading ability at an age where it is critical to develop these fundamental skills. There were a total of 285 students enrolled in the program. Students were placed in classes with an average of 16 students, with both a teacher and a full-time instructional aide, in order to maximize the students’ individualized attention and growth.
“Here these kids have the confidence to share their ideas,” commented Prestwood and Summer Literacy teacher Gwen Watson. “In larger classes the students are more hesitant, because they don’t have the skills some of the other kids do. But here everyone is in the same boat, which makes the kids more open to learning.”
A unique quality of the program is that every teacher or aide has been hired from within the School District. Prestwood Principal Katie Hahn expressed her gratitude for this detail by noting “having all district staff here really leads to investment by everyone in the program. These really are our kids and, to my knowledge, this is the first time it’s happened.”
“Teachers are really able to target certain struggles for individual kids, and work to improve their skills,” added Watson. The program also has three classes designed to help dual-immersion students who have fallen behind. Hahn exclaimed “I’m very happy with the progress that’s being made. It’s great to see these kids improving each day.”
Another success displayed early on in the program was the engagement of students. “A lot of these students tend to be the ones who lose focus and misbehave in class since they are struggling. Here we have had very few behavioral problems, because these students are engaged,” observed Hahn. Through classroom observations, it was clear the students were focused and attentive.
The district determined that, between the five elementary schools and two charter schools, a total of 603 students were eligible to attend the Summer Literacy Academy. Forty seven percent of those eligible enrolled and, according to both the teachers and administrators, showed signs of progress.
Justin Cox is a 2019 graduate of Sonoma Valley High School. He was a summer intern with the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation. In the fall he will be attending San Diego State to study journalism.