Mitigating Summer Learning Loss

Fast Facts

  • Locations: Indiana, Colorado, Alabama, Illinois
  • Disadvantaged K to 8th grade students
  • 3,000 total students at 23 sites in 4 states
  • 4 week schedule
  • Diverse communities – urban, rural, suburban
  • Established in 2009
  • Targeted to students with the most need

DreamBox Implementation

  • Deployed since summer 2013
  • 210 K-5 students
  • 20 minutes/day, 4x/week
  • Blended learning model
By employing DreamBox as part of our overall math instructional plan, our scholars were able to achieve amazing academic growth and we were able to significantly reduce costs.
Earl Martin Phalen
Founder and CEO
Summer Advantage USA

4.1 months in math achievement in just 4 weeks

Challenge

Combating the summer brain drain

summer-advantage-student-improvement-graphStudents in the countries outpacing the United States in academic success attend school for 30-45 days more per year than US students. It’s a fact that Summer Advantage USA founder Earl Martin Phalen is quick to mention, but it’s also the major reason this Yale- and Harvard Law-educated product of the foster system chose to focus his educational crusade in the summer. “Summer learning loss is a major contributor to the achievement gap,” reports Summer Advantage Strategic Initiatives head Michelle Ciccone. “Students in low-income situations tend to lose 3 months’ worth of math learning over the summer. Earl knew he would have a greater impact on learning if he focused on summer programs rather than after school programs.”

The solution turned out to be academic summer camps built to reinforce the learning of the previous school year. The program has quickly grown to 23 sites in Indiana, Colorado, Alabama, and Illinois.

Solution

Effective technology to allow students to hit the ground running

Summer Advantage is built around the blended learning model, but they recognized that no math solution on the market is built for short summer programs. As there is no time for training or professional development on any new technology, the system they adopt must be user-friendly and easy to use for both teachers and students right out of the box. A track record of closing the achievement gap in challenging situations would be a plus as well. DreamBox met those requirements and more.

The goal of Summer Advantage is to reinforce what a child learned in the previous school year. By design, students are struggling with that content in order to be invited to the program in the first place. That means there are usually gaps to fill. “DreamBox increases the number of concepts a student is exposed to and helps to fill any gaps in understanding regardless of their ability level,” Ms. Ciccone said.

Implementation

Making the most out of very limited time

Summer Advantage has chosen to maximize one-on-one and small group learning time with a rotational blended learning model. The classes are broken into thirds during math time with; one third working on DreamBox while the remaining two thirds work with a teacher and an assistant. The program’s student: teacher ratios are low, greatly increasing the individual attention students receive. The Summer Advantage teachers use the data from DreamBox to form the small groups in the rotational model, allowing for easier differentiation.

The goal is for each kindergarten to 5th grade student to use DreamBox at least 20 minutes per day for four days per week in the morning. Afternoons are reserved for enrichment activities and Fridays are for field trips and guest speakers. After all, it is a summer camp.

The Summer Advantage model also calls for weekly assessment to inform the instruction for the next week, but the teachers started noticing a problem: because DreamBox was so efficient at filling in the students’ learning gaps from the previous school year, they were starting to work ahead of expectations—even starting concepts scheduled for the next school year. “DreamBox helped to close gaps in conceptual understanding. It allows students to cover more and other concepts that are not being taught that week,” said Ms. Ciccone.

Results

Changing educational trajectories in just 4 weeks

The Summer Advantage programs themselves are not subject to state testing, but that doesn’t mean the difference the programs have made in the academic success of their students cannot be tracked. In Indiana, for example, they have seen that graduates of the Summer Advantage summer programs increased their performance by 12 points in math in the following year’s state testing.

“The amazing thing about using DreamBox in our Summer Advantage USA program was that it allowed us to—in some cases—more than double the skills and content each child was able to practice and master. In just 4 weeks of using DreamBox for 20 minutes 4 times a week, as part of the math instructional block, we saw a full 4.1 months of improvement in math achievement,” Ms. Ciccone reports. If you do the math, that means a net gain of more than 7 months’ worth of math learning for students who would have lost 3 months.

The program’s success has been so transformative to the communities it serves that Mr. Phalen, Ms Ciccone, and the rest of the Summer Advantage team are expanding past summer education. They opened the first of ten blended learning charter schools in Indianapolis this year.

And yes, the schools will be following the international model of 225 school days, rather than 180.

That should be more than enough time to raise the achievement level of struggling learners and create more success stories.

More Case Studies

Indiana Elementary school intervention closed math gaps

DeKalb Central School District

From intervention to universal growth

After using DreamBox Learning Math in their math intervention programs for one year, NWEA MAP® scores across the board have improved in DeKalb Central School District. Additionally, district interventionists report that growth is occurring for all of their students.
Read Full Story

Sioux Center High School

2-3 Years Math Learning in 6 Months for ELL Students

In less than six months, more than half of the 37 students in the Newcomers Program at Sioux Center High School who are enrolled in ELL Math have made gains between two and three years' worth of math learning.
Read Full Story
Nevada equity access to math proficiency

Aldeane Comito Ries Elementary School

First Graders See Over 2 Years of Growth

Students who used DreamBox more than 60 min per week progressed in the curriculum more than one year’s worth of learning while first graders saw an average over 2 years of growth.
Read Full Story