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Keeping Young Scholars Engaged

If students aren’t learning during the summer, they can lose ground academically — and once children fall back, the gap in achievement can grow with each year.

The Duke Endowment is working with rural United Methodist churches in North Carolina to combat learning loss in their communities through evidence-informed summer literacy programs for rising first- through fourth-graders. The goals are to improve literacy outcomes for students who are at risk for reading failure and encourage churches to play an effective role in helping children and families.

In 2016, an external evaluation found that:

  • Regarding reading comprehension, on average, students gained three months of learning, as measured by pre- and post-assessments administered by the outside evaluator.
  • On average, students improved their reading accuracy, moving from a “frustration level” of reading fewer than 90 percent of words accurately, to an “instructional level” of reading 90-94 percent of words correctly.
  • Students improved their reading speed by an average of 33 seconds per reading selection.
  • Students reported positive changes in their reading behaviors and attitudes.
  • The programs addressed a community need and engaged volunteers in meaningful work.

Along with three congregations already involved, nine new churches will implement a summer literacy program in 2019. Long-term plans include conducting a rigorous impact evaluation and potentially replicating and scaling the model to help struggling readers in rural areas across the state.