Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
901 South Bond Street, Suite 540
Baltimore, Maryland 21231
Phone: 443-287-9960 | Fax: 443-287-9920
June 5, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Angela Branz-Spall
Award-Winning Program Serves Children of
Migrant Farm Workers
Editors' note: Ron Fairchild, executive director of the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University, is available for phone interviews about the problem of summer learning loss and the success of the Montana Migrant Education Program. To interview Fairchild, call Debra Carroll at 443-340-4641.
Baltimore — The Center for Summer Learning at The Johns Hopkins University has named the Montana Migrant Education Program (MT MEP) one of the nation's best summer programs, selecting it from dozens of applicants across the country.
The 2008 Excellence in Summer Learning Award recognizes summer programs that demonstrate excellence in accelerating academic achievement and promoting positive development for young people.
This summer, MT MEP will open its doors to more than 1,000 children statewide whose lives and education are disrupted as their parents come to Montana for seasonal agricultural jobs. Special features of the program are a mobile computer lab and a tutoring service in which inspiring teachers go out to work sites where families are located to play math games with the children.
A hallmark of the Migrant Education Program is that it adjusts its services to meet students' diverse needs, providing, for instance, special night classes for older youth who work in the fields with their parents during the day. The program strives to make the most of the summer weeks when students are in Montana by determining what students know, building on this knowledge, and advancing their learning with new skills. In small classes, students receive reading, language arts, math and science lessons and take part in engaging enrichment activities, such as theme-based learning. For last year's "flight" theme, students built model airplanes and learned which ones fly best and why. Older students explored careers related to flight and even climbed aboard a Blackhawk helicopter that landed in a school's soccer field.
Last year, 70 percent of the children served by MEP were Hispanic who spoke limited English. The students range from pre-K to 12th grade. Montana receives some of the nation's most impoverished migrant families, and many of the children live in cramped, substandard housing in remote, rural areas with poor access to health care. Students' irregular school attendance leads to frustration and poor academic performance, resulting in many children dropping out of school in their early teens.
"The Migrant Education Program in Montana is an ideal example of an effective high- quality summer learning program," says Ron Fairchild, executive director of the Center for Summer Learning. "The staff at MEP is committed to ensuring that kids have continuity in their education. The program is designed to accommodate the needs of each child and has had tremendous success in preventing summer learning loss."
For 40 years, MT MEP has served migrant children whose parents pick sugar beets, cherries and huckleberries and work other seasonal agricultural jobs. As a result, the education of migrant children traveling across school districts is significantly disrupted because they have to handle different and sometimes conflicting curriculums and academic expectations. In addition, migrant children often leave their states before the school year ends and return after classes already have resumed in the fall.
Due to these circumstances, students possess a wide range of skills in any given grade-level. The MT MEP staff rigorously assesses the needs of individual students by using a database designed specifically for migrant students. The system allows educators to review the academic history of each student across state lines, as well as their test scores, relocation histories and other detailed information critical to serving their individual needs.
At the beginning of each summer, MT MEP teachers also assess each student's reading and math skills and then give students lessons appropriate for their skill level. Teachers continually monitor students' progress. The MT MEP staff use the findings to adjust the course work and tailor lessons to students' needs. Last year, 77 percent of the students increased their reading scores, and 88 percent increased their math scores.
The Montana program also uses a mobile computer lab that travels the state to ensure that the children and youth have access to the latest technology, no matter how remote their parents' work is. The mobile lab moves around the state as children move across Montana. The technology includes satellite Internet, GPS devices, digital cameras and the latest productivity software releases.
Beyond building math and reading skills, older youth enrolled in MT MEP also are encouraged to set long-term goals through the Migrant Youth Program. Due to their unique challenges, migrant youth tend to drop out of school as young teens and are unprepared for jobs outside of the migrant workforce. The Migrant Education Program combats this trend by coordinating with students' primary school districts to ensure that students have the credits and courses necessary to graduate. The program also supports students as they consider career options and learn what steps are necessary to achieve their goals.
Migrant youth and their parents are committed to MT MEP, even though students are not required to attend a summer program. High school students typically begin work with their parents in sugar beet fields well before dawn until 3 or 4 p.m. After cleaning up and a long bus ride to school, they eat a quick dinner and work on courses until 9:30 p.m. Of the 118 migrant students identified in the largest eastern site in 2007, 116 attended either day or night school; high school students completed a total of 30 credits despite considerable work responsibilities. "We are honored to receive this award from the Center for Summer Learning," said Angela Branz-Spall, director of the Montana Migrant Education Program. "We want the kids to have fun and continue to develop their academic skills to prevent summer learning loss. We are proud to offer a program that understands the needs of this particular group of kids and excited to be a part of this national effort."
On Thursday, July 10, communities around the country will celebrate Summer Learning Day, a national event organized by the Center for Summer Learning to raise awareness of the importance of high-quality summer learning opportunities in the lives of youth and their families. Montana Migrant Education Program also is planning to hold activities around Summer Learning Day, though due to the transient nature of its students, some activities may take place before or after July 10.
The mission of the Center for Summer Learning is to create opportunities for high-quality summer learning for all young people. The center is committed to expanding summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged children and youth as a strategy for closing the achievement gap and promoting healthy youth development. Based at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, the center works to improve program availability and quality, build public support and influence public policy and funding. For more information, visit: http://www.summerlearning.org
The Migrant Education Program strives to provide an educational experience that can help children reduce the educational disruptions and other problems that can result form repeated moves. During the regular school year, in areas with concentrations of migrant children, migrant education projects can operate in support of, and in coordination with, the regular school program. During the summer, at the peak of Montana's agricultural season, educational programs are set up exclusively for migrant children since regular school programs are not in operation for the most part during that time. For more information, visit: www.opi.mt.gov/migrant/.