MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Our next story in this week's Teamwork show looks ahead a little bit to the summer. And seriously, the way this year has been flying by, I daresay summer will be here before we know it. But anyway, just to provide a little background, two years ago Kavitha Cardoza reported about problems with the District's youth summer programs, problems that left more than 15,000 young people without very much to do during the long summer months.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Maggie Riden is the executive director of the D.C. Alliance of Youth Advocates, which represents 130 nonprofits that work with children.
MS. MAGGIE RIDEN
WAMU absolutely brought attention to the fact that we are service rich and systems poor, that we have a number of really high quality organizations or partners that are executing phenomenal programming, but they tend to get lost in individual agency silos. And being able to break that down and understand how all of these component parts are working together has been a huge impetus behind the summer planning initiative.
As a result of Kavitha's original story, city agencies came together to plan and set goals for 2012 summer programs. Kavitha recently spoke with Riden about the teamwork involved in revamping these programs and what the reforms will mean for kids in summer 2013.
MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA
Every year thousands upon thousands of D.C. children take part in summer programs. Summer school, summer jobs, summer camps. So many children that even figuring out how many were taking part was difficult to determine.
No agency was tracking in a consistent format or collecting or keeping that information for future review. So we could say 25,000 to 35,000 students touched any number of systems, but the extent to which they touched them, if they returned, was impossible to track.
It really just was sort of a disparate, shotgun approach to planning a summer.
That changed last year. Twenty-eight government agencies and eighty community partners began working together as a team. They spent approximately $25 million, served 23,000 children and they did something they hadn't done before, they set goals.
Five city-wide goals that looked at everything from workforce development, to academic achievement, to health and safe behaviors, to family involvement, clearly articulated goals and objectives. Every stakeholder would come together and say this is what we're focused on, this is our degree of funding, this is what we could contribute.
They also thought more strategically about parts of the city that needed services the most, mapping crime data with other social and behavioral information, such as teen pregnancy rates and academic outcomes. That information was compared with a map showing the locations of schools, libraries and recreation centers. Once they had all that data, they identified areas to bring in programs.
So if you look around St. Elizabeth’s campus, where most of our homeless families are housed, there aren’t a lot of community-based supports, but there's tremendous need. Through this planning initiative, we were able to bring services and supports to the campus at St. Elizabeth so parents could have a parenting class, children could participate in an enrichment or academic program that took them offsite, but also worked with them and their families. It meant that the Department of Health or Department of Parks and Rec could bring services and a mobile unit to that site, really meeting community where they're at.
And as silly as it sounds, an intervention as simple as that, really does increase participation and it means that people are more likely to seek out those services in the future.
Riden says many of the problems that plagued the summer programs in previous years have largely been addressed.
Not getting paid, employing students who are not from the District, really just providing a warehouse where young people spent six weeks of the summer without learning any employment skills, let alone being modeled what an appropriate or meaningful work environment would look like. A number of those elements have been addressed. And I think we're not hearing the same levels of distress, frustration or anger.
But Riden emphasizes there is room for growth and this year they’re going to ask leaders of summer programs to collect data measuring how well they’re serving children.
So we'd like to know what are the goals of that summer camp, what can young people expect to get at the end of a program and how are they going to focus and evaluate that progress? Is there a pre- and post-test? Are they taking attendance? Are they asking for feedback from youth and young adults or their parents?
Riden says she would like to see more summer programs focusing on academics because summer is a critical time to help students catch up.
The District has the most significant achievement gap, nationally, between low income, middle and upper income students. We know that over a course of a summer a student in a middle or upper-income-level home is likely to make academic gains. A lower income student loses months of academic gains over the course of a summer. And what that means is by fifth grade a low-income student could be as much as 2.5 years behind in reading and 1.5 years behind a peer in math.
Using the summer programs to address that gap, Riden says, could be a real game changer for the city’s children. I’m Kavitha Cardoza.
Time for a break, but when we get back, the District's roller derby teams look for a new place to call home sweet home.
MS. SAMANTHA MCGOVERN
The league is trying really hard to attain a warehouse space. As great as this is, we are at the mercy of the Armory, so if the National Guard has to do something, which is important, they get first dibs on the space.
That and more in a minute on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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