Summer Academy Takes Aim at Summer Learning Loss

The Summer Academy, a summer learning pilot program, will kick off June 17 and run through August 2 at Audubon Elementary School. The program will serve 45 students in Dubuque’s Title I schools with reading scores at or below proficiency with the goal of maintaining or increasing their reading proficiency over the summer break.

St. Mark Community Center is leading a group of dedicated organizations to launch the Summer Academy. The pilot program is part of the larger Dubuque Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, an initiative facilitated by Every Child/Every Promise in strategic alliance with the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. This innovative collaboration of partners from the local nonprofit, education, government and business sectors working together improve grade-level reading in first, second and third grade students. Grade-level reading is a major factor leading to academic achievement: research shows that 74% of students who fail to read proficiently by the end of third grade won’t graduate from high school.

“Keeping students engaged in learning throughout the summer months will help better prepare them for success in the classroom during the school year,” said Stan Rheingans, superintendent of the Dubuque Community School District. “This new program is a wonderful example of community partners joining together to benefit our community’s most treasured resource – our youth.”

Summer in particular is a critical time for students. Evidence shows that students experience summer learning loss during the long summer months when they are not engaged in learning activities on a regular basis. The problem is even worse for students of low-income families who often do not have access or resources to attend learning-based summer programs or have less access to books and reading opportunities.

Based on summer learning best practices, the Summer Academy will employ a coordinated approach among summer program providers, schools and funders. Rather than aiming just to “keep kids busy,” program staff, comprised of certified teachers, teaching assistants and AmeriCorps VISTAs lead by St. Mark Community Center, will ensure they continue to learn and have new experiences with a rich array of programming.

“Summer is a great opportunity to introduce students to new experiences and help them find their talents,” said Tara Velez, executive director of St. Mark Community Center. “Both the Summer Academy and our regular half-day summer program aim to keep children engaged during the summer months through hands-on, experiential learning experiences The Summer Academy will allow us to serve more youth this summer and will provide families with the option for full-day programming.”

The program will create baseline data for grade-level reading assessment and future summer learning programs with the potential for replication across Dubuque and other communities.

The Summer Learning Planning Committee includes: St. Mark Community Center (lead organization), Dubuque Community School District, Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, Every Child/Every Promise, City of Dubuque Leisure Services, Iowa State University Dubuque County Extension and Outreach, Loras College and the Boys and Girls Club, the Crescent Community Health Center and the Dubuque Kiwanis. Funders include the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, the City of Dubuque, the Dubuque Police Protective Association, the Dubuque Racing Association, Kendall Hunt and McGraw-Hill.

For more information on the 2013 Summer Academy, contact Eric Dregne at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque at or 563.588.2700.

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