Summer REACH Program is Successful in Preparing Children for Fall Success
Posted on 08/03/2020
Photo: Izabella Balli, a third-grader at Middle Valley Elementary shows her perfect attendance award for REACHThe REACH summer learning program in Hamilton County Schools was a resounding success according to the children and teachers who participated. The program was designed to help children in danger of falling behind academically because of schools closing for COVID-19 in the spring and students missing valuable time learning.

There were 1,961 elementary and middle school children enrolled in the program held at 25 schools in July. The three-week intensive learning program was funded by $1.6 million provided to the school district by the Cares Act federal COVID-19 relief program. The first priority in setting up the summer program was the health and safety of children and staff. Everyone did an excellent job of following CDC guidelines for social distancing, wearing face-coverings, and washing hands regularly.

"For their part, the kids really enjoyed the program," said Larrie Reynolds, community superintendent of the Harrison Bay Learning Community, and the administrator in charge of the REACH summer program. "In my visits to the school sites, I witnessed; hundreds of kids, all socially distanced, wearing face masks, and so happy to be in school learning vital skills."

Getting children to attend school in the summer and engage in learning is very challenging. Incentives to attend and actively participate in learning in the REACH program were made possible by the generous support of the Martin Family Foundation, which donated $150,000 to motivate our students to excel. The incentives allowed the schools to reward students for attendance, attitude, and academic success. The REACH program staff was amazed by the response to the prizes for attending class and working hard each day, calling it a major motivator for the children. "I LOVE the prizes! I won a Light Up Basketball, and It has been a lot of fun to play with at home," Is just one of the many comments I have heard from children in the program, said Dr. Reynolds.

Results show that students were engaged and motivated to learn. Of the 1961 students enrolled, the average daily attendance was 1068. There were 640 who recorded perfect attendance, 187 additional students only missed one day, and 1,169 students received attitude awards.

"Our goal was for 80% of the students who participated in the REACH program to show 50% or more gains from the pre-test when they started the program to the post-test at the end," said Reynolds. "We do not have all achievement data in since the program just finished today, however, in the REACH sites with all of their post-test data reported, we appear to have met our goal."

Some students showed tremendous academic growth in the REACH program. For example, one student scored 13% on the pre-test and 96% on the post-test. "We have similar cases where children clearly benefited tremendously from the high-quality instructional experiences in the REACH program," added Reynolds.

"From the COVID-19 pandemic to a devastating tornado, the last six months have genuinely tested the spirit of our community, and it has been amazing to see the way our community partners have responded and remained committed to supporting our children," said Dr. Bryan Johnson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. "Hamilton County is resilient, and the work accomplished across our county during this challenging time is proof. Thank you to our inspiring community for the support you provided our students this year, and we look forward to continuing this work in the fall and beyond."

Photo: Izabella Balli, a third-grader at Middle Valley Elementary shows her perfect attendance award for REACH