Summer Thoughts


We still run most American schools on an agrarian calendar. It’s great for teachers and administrators to have a break. It’s great for above-average students. It is not-so-great for many at-risk and disabled students. As most of us align to Common Core State Standards, we are updating our special education curriculum maps and IEP’s. This is a professional development exercise that is perfect for the summer months. If we are in sessions with our colleagues, it’s a good idea to share some thoughts on keeping our special needs kids on track.

Where above-average students might grow from 1.2 to 1.4 years in math and reading in a 9-month school year and lose only .2 to .3 years of growth over the summer, weaker students who grow.7 or .8 of a year in math and reading can lose up to half of that gain over the summer. Year-round school and summer school is one way to prevent backsliding for weaker students. As a former library media specialist, I like keeping the school library open all summer and having reading camps. Ideally, these fun times are for all students, but there’s nothing wrong with having a special session for special kids. Reading lists can be prepared with input from your colleagues in the regular classroom, providing guidance on standards they are targeting.

For your reading lists, pick titles that have potential for field trips as follow-up activities. Look to your public library for grade level offerings in local history. In my town (Marblehead, MA), I was pleased to see a small flock of kids walking around our Fort Sewall recently. It has a wonderful Revolutionary War story, and students seem to be engaged by conversations about the U.S.S. Constitution. The Cincinnati library has a wonderful list of fiction books regarding the Revolutionary War. Your local librarian will be helpful, too. When you take the kids to the library, use the opportunity to make sure they all have library cards to encourage future visits!

Unfortunately, not all schools provide these programs throughout the summer for those students who need it. If we want special needs students to stay on-track, or even to get ahead during the summer, either parents or some dedicated teachers can make plans for at-risk and learning-disabled students.

Fortunately, some excellent online curricula are available. On our Revolutionary War theme, there’s the Guide to the American Revolution list of relevant sites for information and entertainment. Some other reading and field trip pairings can be found at Field Trips and Other Adventures.

Teachers should make student reading levels very clear to parents, and even provide individualized book lists for each student’s summer reading. Parents can be encouraged to choose additional books to read to their children. Summer needn’t be boring or a grind. Just reading for pleasure is enough for some. When kids see parents reading, it provides a solid message that reading is a daily activity for everyone.

As you’re planning for grants, notice how many of the sources are interested in funding STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) projects. Funding realities remind us that we will not see year-round school schedules any time soon. However, do I hear a call for a grant? This is an ideal summer project for teachers who are grant-savvy. Foundations and corporations in particular are often eager to support summer programming.

Tie your program to academic achievement and you have a fundable, possibly unbeatable combination. Because these sources of funds are often dedicated to supporting the communities where they are located, the search for one can be challenging. The MySchoolGrant℠ database will help you find national and local sources of funds for after-school programs.

If you work with children affected by autism, I highly recommend that you research Autism Speaks as a source of potential funding.

Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks seeks to directly support the innovative work of autism service providers in local communities across the United States. The focus of their Family Services Community Grants is three-fold: to promote autism services that enhance the lives of those affected by autism, to expand the capacity to effectively serve this growing community and to enhance the field of service providers.

States: All states
Average Amount: $5,000 – $25,000
Telephone: 917-475-5059
Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Other
Program Funded: After-School, Arts, Community Involvement, Volunteerism, Disabilities, Early Childhood, Family Services, General Education, Healthe/PE, Library, Math, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, Special Education, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Technology, Vocational
Deadline to Apply: 3/25/2014


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