West Hartford

Middle School Summer Program
West Hartford School District

Rising grade 7-9 students

This six week program was designed to increase student engagement and self-efficacy. It was framed around literacy, numeracy, enrichment, and exploration activities with goal setting and social and emotional skills integrated throughout. Students had choice in the selection of their exploration area with topics spanning art, drama, wellness and geolocation, world languages and cultures. Teachers built student capacity in goal setting, self-management, self-awareness, and relationship skills. All students met summer reading expectations by reading at least one novel.

Successful or Innovative Elements

School counselor:  In Year 2, a school counselor was added to the staff.  The school counselor administered a “welcome survey” to all students as a means of gathering information to share with teachers (e.g. Why do you think you were recommended?  What do you think you need to work on?  What can adults do to help you be successful?).  Survey data is available to teachers and utilized to prioritize student check-ins.  The counselor also observes classes and uses observation data to schedule student check-ins according to priority.

Arts integration:  An arts integration specialist co-teaches across multiple content areas.  Through co-teaching, the art teacher and content teacher deliver an arts-based math, literacy, or drama lesson.  Planning time is provided to optimize co-teaching opportunities.  Despite small class sizes, students will select and perform monologues (notable resource:  BIPOC Voices and Perspectives Monologue Resource)

Future Educators of Diversity:  In Year 1, high school students involved with Future Educators of Diversity (FEOD) served as peer models and assisted teachers.

Family communication:  Advisors send communication to families mid-program to provide a summary of the content and skills covered, along with a brief summary of student progress.

End-of-program reporting:  Student progress and notes are communicated to each student’s home school.

Student and teacher feedback:  At the conclusion of Year 1, student and teacher feedback was collected to identify improvements for Year 2.  The arts focus, student choice of exploration block, and the introduction of the Interest Block developed in Year 2 as a result of Year 1 feedback.

Measures of Accomplishment

  • Attendance (in some instances, students with low attendance during the school year have attended summer program with consistent attendance)
  • Sustained levels of academic achievement from spring to fall (no summer “slide”)
    • Math - iReady
    • Literacy - STAR
  • Student and family requests to enroll
  • Repeat participation from Year 1 to Year 2 due to interest

Student Enrollment
The Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction identified a learner profile and coordinated with school leadership to identify students who might benefit from an engagement-based program.  Recommendations for the program were based on attendance, academic performance, and social-emotional needs displayed throughout the school year.  In collaboration with school counselors, grade-level teams recommended students, ranked students (high priority, medium priority, low priority), and provided recommendation notes (e.g. attendance, work completion, etc.).  At the conclusion of Quarter 3, school leadership and school counselors invited families via a personal phone call.  On a shared spreadsheet, each school inputted the person responsible for contact, the family’s response, and transportation needs.  The program coordinator sent a welcome letter to all families and the transportation office communicated bus information ahead of the opening date.  Advisors followed up with contact to families prior to program start.

All staff hired for the Middle School Summer Program are WHPS educators, with the majority serving in roles at the middle school level.  Beginning in early March, job postings were advertised internally for the coordinator, teacher, counselor, and TA positions.  Interested applicants submitted applications through a Google Form.  Applicants were asked to share their experiences related to working with disengaged students/youth and share their skills/interests outside of academics that would enhance the program offerings.  Positions are filled based on need in numeracy, literacy, and exploration areas (physical, artistic, and creative environment).

Class sizes are small with no more than 10 students per class.  The program runs from 8-12, Monday-Friday.  Students are broken into triads consisting of a numeracy, literacy, and exploration teacher.  Students are assigned to a triad-based advisory where students begin their day with SEL/goal-setting activities.  Students rotate through literacy and numeracy classes on-triad.  Students complete a survey to identify their exploration choice.  Exploration offerings include:  drama, art, fitness & geolocation, world culture & language, STEM, and coding.  Students participate in two exploration cycles throughout the duration of the program.  Students also have choice when it comes to selecting their mid-morning interest block (independent reading, origami, board games, etc.).  Students end their day returning to advisory for a closure activity.


West Hartford - Middle School Summer Program - Sample Schedule

Teachers design curriculum around reinforcing challenging skills from the previous school year and front loading skills for the upcoming school year.  Numeracy teachers have access to iReady and IXL to personalize instruction.  Completion of summer reading is an assured learning experience for all literacy classes.  SEL & goal-setting extends into content classes.  Teachers frequently collaborate to design triad-based team building activities.  Teachers prioritize engagement throughout all areas of the program.

In Year 1 (summer 2021), grab-and-go meals were offered.  The program is housed at the high school summer school site, and many resources are shared (e.g. school nurse and security).  Books are distributed on “Free Book Friday” and students have access to the high school library.  A program TA is hired to manage attendance, parent communication, etc.  Transportation is coordinated with the transportation office.  Rising sixth graders were included in the Middle School Program for Year 1, but were placed with elementary for Year 2.

Program Contact
Paul Vicinus, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction   |   paul_vicinus@whps.org
Jen Omartian   |   jennifer_omartian@whps.org