The Results Are In: United Way’s Summer Stars Program Reduced Summer Learning Loss

Post Stephanie McLemore Bray
September 2019 Blog

Grade-level literacy is a predictor of future success in school. By fourth grade, children should be reading to learn. However, far too many students in our region are struggling to meet that milestone.

Our United Way, through our Square One Project, made a commitment to reduce the number of students who fall behind academically during the summer. We also wanted to make sure that low-income students, who rely on school meal programs, were continuing to receive meals during the summer. In June, we launched Summer STARS, a six-week program that provided targeted literacy support to students three times a week for three hours a day as well as a nutritious meal. I had an opportunity to visit Summer STARS sites in Sacramento and Amador counties. In addition to reading support and a healthy meal, students received a bag full of books to take home to read to their parents.

The program received rave reviews from students, their parents and our nonprofit partners. More importantly, Summer STARS helped local kids combat the summer slide.

We partnered with five nonprofit agencies across 14 sites in Sacramento, Yolo, and Amador counties. Twelve of our Summer STARS sites were low-income housing communities. A total of 507 children in grades K-5 participated in the program. Of that total, 284 STARS attended all the required sessions.

Students were assessed before the program began and at the end. Our kindergarteners were assessed based on their site word inventory: the ability to recognize words without having to sound them out. Our first through fifth-grade students were assessed based on fluency: the ability to read connected text aloud with accuracy, speed, and appropriate phrasing. If students have strong oral reading skills, they are more likely to comprehend what they are reading. Our program used a national curriculum from Scholastic, Inc., a leading provider of books and literacy tools for teachers and students.

Here are the results of our Summer STARS program:

  • About 73% of students had increased assessment scores
  • Overall, 83.4% of students either maintained or increased their reading level

The Summer STARS Program is an example of how the Square One Project strives to keep kids on track. 

Grade-level literacy is a predictor of future success in school. By fourth grade, children should be reading to learn. However, far too many students in our region are struggling to meet that milestone. The program also helps our local United Way meet our overall goal of fostering a love of reading and learning so that more students graduate high school, college or career-ready. We know that education beyond high school reduces the likelihood that those students will live in poverty.

Going forward, we want to reach more students in our five-county region. Those young readers are our future workforce and future community leaders. We invite you to join us in supporting their success.