Ten to Win on TLC Summer Program
Posted On March 3, 2021
Betting on The Learning Center is a solid play that consistently offers great odds for success. The summer program of TLC is no different.
This summer will be the tenth anniversary of The Learning Center Summer Program. For five weeks each summer, students from all over Lexington, not just those enrolled at The Lexington School, are invited to attend a unique summer school experience. In its tenth year, perhaps a silver lining of COVID-19, the program will launch an online virtual option, providing access to programming for children all over the country. Jane Childers, Founding Director of The Learning Center at The Lexington School and the TLC summer program tells the story and gives a little insight into the secret sauce.
What is the Summer Program at The Learning Center?
Jane: “The summer program at The Learning Center is a five-week academic program providing language arts and mathematics instruction to students in grades one through eight with a small student to teacher ratio of 4-1 ratio. Instruction is primarily designed to meet the needs of students with language-based learning differences (dyslexia) and students who have experienced difficulties in both reading and math. The program is open to all students and does not require formal testing to attend. The program is designed to prevent regression that often occurs over the summer months and provide students with a springboard to start the coming year fully prepared. Meeting the individual needs of children is at the core of the program and lessons are designed to fit each student’s learning profile.”
What was the impetus for a program like this?
Jane: “Philosophically, the decision was connected to the knowledge of the many children who struggle with learning to read but for many reasons (lack of funds, lack of services in schools, lack of awareness) are never diagnosed with dyslexia. These children need help regardless of the circumstances. Learning to read is so crucial to academic success. Nationally, only 35% of public school students were at or above Proficient in grade 4 reading. So, we thought, if we can reach and help these children even in a small way it could change the trajectory of their schooling. The thinking behind it was twofold: to offer it for current TLC students and those in the traditional program who needed or wanted it, and to offer it to the larger Lexington community for a variety of reasons: to get the word out that we were here and to offer an opportunity to students from families who weren’t sure they could commit financially or emotionally to full-year program.”
How accessible is the program?
Jane: “Unlike the whole year program, we don’t require formal testing, so any family with a child who is experiencing challenges in math and reading can benefit from the experience. We do screen every student that enrolls in the summer program before they start so we can see their present level of performance and where they might have gaps, and then the teachers are incredible in how proficiently they track each child’s growth and development and recurring challenges throughout the five weeks. It’s of enormous value for the children who attend. A bonus for us is there are families who get a TLC trial run in a way, and often they return summer after summer, and then some end up enrolling permanently. I remember one summer, Alexander. He came to summer and on day one I don’t think he hardly spoke a word and in five weeks, he was completely transformed. He came to me and said, ‘I’ll see you in a couple of weeks—he had enrolled in the year-long program.”
What have been some challenges?
Jane: “As time went by, the program grew and grew, and we needed more teachers than those available from the TLC faculty. I contacted Asbury and Transylvania Education Departments and sought Education majors either in senior year or just graduated. Those who came on board were trained for free in Orton-Gillingham and multisensory math. I supervised them and mentored them while they taught in the program, and these interns worked alongside the TLC faculty as well. It was a true win-win because we were able to enroll and reach more students, and the students from the internships took the strategies they learned into the classrooms where they ultimately landed. Also, it was a wonderful recruitment source for the full-year TLC program. We have five great teachers here now who were interns during summer at some point.”
Jane: “The virtual component—what we have learned through COVID is we can deliver quite successfully over Zoom. And even prior to COVID, there is an element of the population that is underserved in terms of getting explicit and systematic instruction they need. So, we feel like if we can move into the virtual realm, we can offer this to students in all parts of the country, not just Lexington. I can’t tell you how many people I have heard from who want access to this type of instruction however they can reach it.”
What’s the secret sauce?
Geriann Blevins is sending her daughter again after a successful experience last year. She explains, “I loved it. The attention to detail to the individual child is amazing. It was going to school in the summer. Who wants to go to school in the summer? But Stella liked it. They did a great job of making it fun for the kids, so they want to go. And the big plus is how they really benefit from it.”
Jane: “I think it’s because they are successful. The instruction centers upon bulk review, small new material. And in both aspects. they get to practice learning in a multi-sensory way that connects in a different way for them. They learn new strategies they can use themselves now and later. All of it adds to their feeling of success, ‘I can do this.’ And then suddenly, they feel that magical confidence some of them have been missing for a long time. They find success and then their confidence grows and everything else just snowballs from there.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Summer Program at The Learning Center, visit the website linked here.