Dubuque's new Summer Academy prevents student learning loss - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque's new Summer Academy prevents student learning loss

Kylee Kruse, 5, and Bridget Stock, 6, work as reading partners at Summer Academy Tuesday Kylee Kruse, 5, and Bridget Stock, 6, work as reading partners at Summer Academy Tuesday

A new Dubuque program aimed at curbing summer learning loss is wrapping up this week. The pilot program, called Summer Academy, has successfully maintained and advanced students' reading abilities, teachers there say.

"There's research out there, and I think it's common knowledge, that students, over the summer months, lose quite a bit of what they had at the end of the year," Summer Academy director Brent Siegert said. "Being a teacher, we see it when the kids come back in the fall."

To see that Summer Academy is working, all one must do is ask six-year-old Bridget Stock about it.

"We like reading because it's fun for us to read," she said Tuesday morning at Summer Academy, sitting next to her friend and reading partner, five-year-old Kylee Kruse.

For Summer Academy teacher Jackie Weber, hearing her students call reading their favorite thing to do is music to the ears.

"Building the love of reading is really important," Weber said, "and so watching them develop that is really exciting and then gaining some of the skills or remembering skills that they were already taught."

Weber is teaching incoming first graders at Summer Academy.

The program serves nearly 50 Dubuque students, who tested at or below grade-level reading proficiency.

"Our goal for the program," Weber said, "is to maintain what the students learned throughout the year."

Students have sharpened their reading skills every morning of every weekday since mid-June, when the program launched and teachers gave students a baseline reading test.

Siegert said teachers are giving their students the same test this week -- the final week of Summer Academy -- to compare with the initial scores.

"The test scores that we've taken so far, from the beginning until now, the students have either maintained or grown on the assessments that we've taken, so it's met its goal," Siegert said.

Many of these students attend Title I elementary schools and may come from low-income families, so the academy aims to enrich more than just reading skills.

"In the afternoons, they've gone to plays, they've gone to the pool, we took a boat ride," Weber said. "For many of them, it was the first time they had ever been on the Mississippi River."

Like all good books must, however, this summer's program has come to an end. Siegert and Weber said they see it continuing to positively impact students' lives for years to come.

St. Mark Community Center in Dubuque spearheaded Summer Academy, which is part of the larger Dubuque Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, an initiative through Every Child/Every Promise and the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque.

Those organizations cite research that shows 74 percent of students who fail to read proficiently by the end of third grade won't graduate from high school.

Dubuque's efforts to improve third graders' reading levels was one major component of its application for the 2012 All-America City Award, which it won.

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