Adventures Ahead was founded in 1996 by community residents seeking to address the educational needs of children in their community. Approximately 30 children in grades K-6 now participate in regular tutoring and recreation programs. The goal of Adventures Ahead is to achieve grade-appropriate literacy among children K-6 who are enrolled, and to nurture each child’s enjoyment of reading as a lifelong venture.
85% of the students who arrive to Adventures Ahead test below grade level in reading. At the two schools closest to our tutoring center, Weemes Elementary and Mack Elementary, only 14% of fifth graders demonstrate proficiency in Math, and only 15% in English Language Arts, on California’s standardized tests. In response, Adventures Ahead offers an individualized reading curriculum to 30 students 9 hours per week during the academic year. An all-day, academically rigorous summer program also incorporates math, science, and health education.
Adventures Ahead is unique among similar programs in three ways: 1) small class size; 2) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) -based curriculum; 3) holistic, relational approach. The program provides a 6:1 student to teacher ratio and supplements instruction with one-on-one Reading Buddies, most of whom are USC students.
Adventures Ahead Summer Program
Closing the Achievement Gap
In the summer of 2012, Jose enrolled in Adventures Ahead’s summer program for the first time. That fall he would be entering the 3rd grade at one of our local public elementary schools. Shockingly, our first assessment of Jose showed that he was reading only at a mid-Kindergarten level. His mom sought us out for help when his teacher said he needed to improve his reading, but didn’t really understand how far behind her son really was.
Through 3rd grade, children are learning to read, but starting in 4th grade, they are reading to learn.
Jose would have only one year to make up this massive gap in his reading ability so that he would be ready for the huge increase in reading material and subject matter that would soon be coming.
What students do during the summer months is extremely critical to their academic success. Research has found that it is during these months between school years that much of the achievement gap between high income and low-income kids occurs. In the chart pictured, kids from high-income families (purple line) and kids from low-income families (yellow line) start first grade in a similar place, and each year during the school year their growth is essentially the same. However, it is during the summer months that an alarming change happens. While kids from high-income backgrounds actually improve in their academics, the reading levels of kids from lower-income backgrounds regress about 2-3 months. By the time kids graduate from 5th grade, high-income kids test almost 2.5 to 3 years ahead compared to low-income kids in reading.
Adventures Ahead aims to close the achievement gap by stepping in where kids need it the most. By offering an all-day summer program, kids like Jose can continue to make up ground in their reading and math, while also engaging in science, art, sports, field trips, and other enriching experiences. Out of all 52 weeks of the year, these 5 weeks in July may be the most important to our students’ success.