Summer reading program addresses two equity gaps
Equity Corner by Edgar Lampkin
September 2, 2019
Edgar LampkinWilliams Unified School District is a small (13,400 ADA), rural district in Colusa County with 92 percent socio-economically disadvantaged enrollment and a student population that is 95 percent Latino/a.  This past school year, a couple of equity gaps were identified in our district. One was a need to provide more internships for our junior and senior high school scholars to build 21st century soft skills in our career pathways. A second gap was that a large number (62 percent) of our 320 kindergarten through 2nd grade scholars were significantly below grade level in reading. Research from Johns Hopkins University Center for Summer Learning shows that low-income students experience summer learning losses in reading comprehension and word recognition that can set them back by more than two months. To address these two gaps, our district started a pilot program this summer called “Si Se Puede Leer” (Yes We Can Read) in our Williams Summer School Academy. We met and got signed commitments from parents of 38 of our lowest-reading scholars to attend this reading academy for four hours a day for six weeks. We also created internships for 14 of our junior and senior high school scholars, using their cultural and linguistic assets to train them to be reading instructors. “I am amazed at how the interns connected so well with our K-2 students,” said Summer Academy Lead Teacher Candice Bersola-Vallejos, the certificated teacher overseeing Si Se Puede Leer. “There were cultural and linguistic connections between both interns and students. The little ones saw the interns as role-models and really looked up to them.”  The intern hiring process involved thorough screening, professional interviews and soft skills training conducted by our Internship Coordinator. Those that were hired then went through an intensive four-day Lindamood-Bell School Partnership certification training and obtained six weeks of job-embedded coaching. “At first I thought I was just going to be home this summer. I applied and got interviewed, but I did not know what to expect,” shared one of the sophomore interns. “The training was amazing and helped me understand how to teach reading. At first, I thought it was going to be easy, but then I learned quickly that you must keep students engaged and use strategies to get them to stay focused. It was hard at first, but then I got the hang of it and I started to see the growth in my students. They began to sound letters, could write them in the air and later, they were able to read, visualize and comprehend whole words and sentences. I was so proud of them. I feel important because I could teach these students how to read this summer. I now want to be a teacher!”  The younger students enjoyed the experience as well, remarking that they would participate more in school this coming year thanks to the program. Instead of falling behind two months, our students advanced four to eight months. Our interns gained soft skills and excellent training, to the extent that many of them now want to be future bilingual teachers!  Another intern was hired from the district’s Digital Media & Information career pathway to develop and produce a documentary about this pilot program, which will be released soon.  Our vision is that all children and youth have access to high-quality summer learning experiences to help them succeed in college, career and life. Si Se Puede Leer has helped us address two equity gaps.  We hope that sharing a pilot project like this can help others replicate or come up with other ways to equitably meet the different needs of scholars throughout California. Edgar Lampkin is Superintendent of Williams Unified School District and ACSA’s Region 2 Equity & Diversity Committee Representative.
Older students gained valuable job skills while younger students improved their reading skills in Williams Unified School District’s pilot summer literacy program called Si Se Puede Leer.

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