The YMCA of Beaufort County will work with Whale Branch Elementary School this summer to try to keep students there on track during the break.
The nonprofit organization will offer a new learning-loss prevention program for children entering first and second grade who are most at risk of falling behind in reading over the summer.
The program is one of three being tested by YMCA of the USA in various communities as part of its efforts to address gaps in academic achievement among the nation's most disadvantaged youth.
"We know that the combination of extended learning and enrichment activities is essential to increasing children's success in school, and we are dedicated to helping more kids achieve their potential," YMCA operations director Kaylin Garst said. "This program will help ensure children at Whale Branch Elementary School have the opportunity to stay on track over the summer and read at or above grade level when the new school year begins."
Certified teachers will provide literacy instruction, as well as art, music and physical activities to 32 children selected by school officials.
Without access to learning activities such as camp, travel and visits to libraries and museums, children from low-income households can experience more significant learning loss than more affluent peers, according to Horizons National. The nonprofit organization provides summer enrichment programs for low-income, public-school students.
"Over time, these children continue to lose ground, and by the fifth grade, many are two to three school years behind their middle and high-income peers," Garst said. "The goal of the Y's pilot program is to help children read at grade level by the third grade -- a key educational milestone that is important to children's ongoing knowledge retention and academic performance."
Early results from a program at the YMCA of Greater Charlotte -- after which the pilot program is modeled -- show average reading gains of two months by participants, Garst said.
Whale Branch Elementary students have already participated in a YMCA summer-learning program, which offers math, science and reading instruction to students in first through fourth grades. The program, which is in its third year, also is offered at Beaufort Elementary, the Hardeeville and Ridgeland school campuses in Jasper County and the Wardle Family YMCA in Port Royal. Those programs serve students anywhere from kindergarten through eighth grades.
Whale Branch Elementary students who participated in the program last summer saw "significantly higher" scores on the Measures of Academic Performance test compared to peers who did not attend, according to principal Anita Singleton.
The MAP test is given to Beaufort County public-school students in kindergarten through eighth grade at the start, middle and end of each school year. The test measures reading and math skills and is used to help teachers identify students' weaknesses and tailor instruction to address them.
"It helps us continue the momentum and significant improvements that we've made" through extended learning time, Singleton said of the pilot summer learning program.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.