B-CC’s Summer Academy and Mentoring Program aims at helping at-risk rising 9th and 10th graders better prepared for the challenges, and be more engaged with their education, at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. The program consists of a three-week 9th Grade Summer Academy, in place since 1999; a one-week 10th Grade Summer Academy, new in 2012; and BRAG (Barons Reaching Academic Goals) which provides mentoring support for at-risk 9th and 10th graders throughout the school year.
The three-week long 9th Grade Summer Academy Program helps prepare at-risk incoming 9th graders, who have struggled at Westland Middle School, for a successful transition to B-CC. Students attend four classes each day — English, Math, Study Skills, and a Seminar — to work on language, math, note-taking and test-taking skills in preparation for the academic demands of ninth grade. They also learn from representatives from the counseling and athletics departments, the SGA, and other extracurricular activities about the resources that are available at the school and what it is like to be a student at B-CC. The program also includes a day dedicated to community service to encourage students to take greater interest in and feel more connected to the B-CC community at large.
To ensure parental involvement, parents of Summer Academy participants are asked to attend an orientation on the first day to meet the staff and learn about the program’s expectations, and are invited, at the conclusion of the program, to an evaluation session to discuss their students’ progress at the academy and to learn about the resources available to the students and how parents can stay involved in their children’s education during the school year.
Participation in the Program is open to all B-CC students. Annually invitations to attend the 9th Grade Summer Academy are sent to a group of about 100-120 Westland Middle School students who have been identified during the prior year as facing struggles that might present extra challenges in 9th grade, and generally about 50-60 students accept the invitation. There typically is a demographic mix of students, racially and geographically, from within the B-CC cluster area.
The one-week long 10th Grade Summer Academy is a new college- and career-readiness component that was added to the Summer Academy program in 2012. The program aims to help at-risk rising 10th graders think ahead about their post-high school options and the respective paths that will lead them there so that they might focus more on their efforts and be more engaged during high school. During that one week, students identify a variety of post-secondary options, learn how to use school resources to explore these options, and develop skills and goals to shape the rest of their high school career.
BRAG (Barons Reaching Academic Goals) is a follow-up mentoring program that provides continuing support for the 9th and 10th graders during the school year. All Summer Academy invitees, regardless of whether they attended the summer program, as well as other 9th and 10th grade students who have been identified as not achieving their fullest potential, are invited to join BRAG. After interim grades are sent out, generally about halfway through each grading period, additional invitations are sent to other struggling students with GPAs below 2.0.
Teachers and staff members, as well as trained adult volunteers from the community, serve as adult mentors, each working with two BRAG students, meeting with them one-on-one every week or two to provide guidance and support. BRAG students are also invited to a weekly lunchtime tutoring session where each student is matched with a National Honor Society student. BRAG staff tracks and monitors interim and quarterly grades during the school year for all students who participate in the program to assess what further assistance could benefit these students.
In 1999, B-CC’s then new Principal Katy Harvey, B-CC HS Educational Foundation President Matt Gandal, and other community members got together to explore ways to improve the academic performance of those students who were achieving only minimal academic success, or even failing, at the high school level. The goal was to raise the academic performance of these students, but the group that gathered was also well aware that a disproportionate number of these students were African-American and Hispanic, and that helping these students better connect to the school community would be important to the achievement of the academic goals. The outgrowth of those discussions was B-CC’s Ninth Grade Summer Academy, a program based on the observation that a solid start in the ninth grade will help a student face future school challenges, and on the realization that not all of B-CC’s students have had the same opportunities to build a foundation for success at the high school level.
Following those discussions, Principal Katy Harvey and Assistant Principal Sean Bulson, with Foundation support, went to work to develop and implement the program. Targeted students were those whose academic records at Westland Middle School suggested that they faced especially high hurdles in making a successful transition to B-CC. B-CC worked closely with Westland staff to identify students for the program and to direct the program to the students most in need and most likely to benefit.
B-CC’s first Summer Academy was held in the summer of 1999. The three-week program was funded with a $3,000 grant from the B-CC High School Educational Foundation, a $3,500 mini-grant from MCPS for state assessment, and a $7,500 grant from Career Connections, sponsored by the B-CC Chamber of Commerce. All of the 19 participating students were incoming ninth grade students from Westland Middle School, recommended for the program by Westland staff because they were deemed likely to have difficulties at B-CC.
The academic focus of the program was on mathematics and English skills, taught by mathematics and English teachers from B-CC’s faculty. The students worked on the skills needed for success in ninth-grade algebra, discussed their required summer reading, and were introduced to concepts they would encounter in Montgomery County’s ninth grade English. The mean grade point average of those 19 students increased from 1.76 in eighth grade at Westland to 2.32 in ninth grade at B-CC when GPAs tended to decline due to greater rigor and other factors.
The success of these students led to the extension of the Summer Academy from three weeks to four weeks in the summer of 2000, in hopes of achieving greater impact. Twenty-two incoming freshmen attended the second annual Summer Academy. Students split their mornings between math and English, learning basic and algebraic concepts while doing lots of writing. In the afternoon, the students worked on developing workplace skills – how to communicate, what to put in a résumé, what to do in an interview, and more.
In the spring of 2001, then-principal Katy Harvey, noting that there were more students interested in the program than could be accommodated the previous two summers, asked the Foundation for greater funding to expand the program so that all students who wanted to participate would be able to do so. The Foundation provided the additional resources for thirty-two students to receive intensive instruction in reading, writing, and math in the summer of 2001.
In the fall of 2006, the Foundation extended its grant to provide continuous support during the school year to all 92 students who were recommended for the Summer Academy that past summer. This is in response to the 2006 pre- and post-program student self-evaluations which showed that 86% of 2006 summer participants felt they would need ongoing support in 9th grade. In this follow-up mentoring program, Barons Reaching Academic Goals (BRAG), students received tutoring and academic support from National Honor Society students in weekly lunchtime sessions, as well as guidance and support from staff members and trained volunteers from the community who served as adult mentors throughout the school year.
In 2012, the Summer Academy program was expanded to include a 10th Grade Summer Academy, a college- and career-readiness program. The one-week program hosted 24 students, all of whom had attended the 2011 9th Grade Summer Academy. The students spent the week exploring career and post-high school options, and working with the Naviance computer program to delve into their chosen careers as well as others suggested by the Naviance program that matched their interests and personality type. The students also used the Naviance program to consider possible college choices to pursue a chosen career.
Since its start in 1999, the Summer Academy program has grown and matured, and is now identified as one of the Foundation’s signature programs. Foundation funding for the program has increased steadily from $3,000 in 1999 to $23,500 in 2013. Both B-CC High School and Westland Middle School have come to rely on the program to provide a critical bridge for some of our most vulnerable students.
“Summer Academy gives incoming ninth graders an advance look at high school, thus removing anxiety about the transition,” said B-CC Principal Karen Lockard. “Students engage in high school academics and realize that they are not only up to the challenge, they learn that high school is fun!”
The Summer Academy was in danger of shutting down in FY2010 when the Foundation’s fundraising efforts were hampered by the poor overall economy. B-CC parents Julie Farkas and Seth Goldman, founder of Honest Tea, stepped forward to offer their support. They made a generous multi-year commitment to not only keep the program open but to revitalize it to better serve the students.
“Like other academic support programs funded by the B-CC High School Educational Foundation, Summer Academy is not in the MCPS budget,” said Matt Gandal, Foundation president. “It only exists because of the generosity of the B-CC community. We are extremely grateful to Seth and Julie for stepping up to support the students in this program.”
“B-CC High School is a community asset,” said Julie Farkas. “When we invest in the Summer Academy or other Foundation programs, we are investing in the future of all of our children. The Summer Academy is a critical way to support students in their transition to B-CC so they can make the most of the school’s tremendous resources and opportunities.”
B-CC’s 9th and 10th Grade Summer Academy Program
|Year||Expenditures||No. of Summer Participants|
Note: To avoid double counting, the number of participants includes only those in the summer academy program (9th Grade Summer Academy and the 10th Grade Summer Academy). The BRAG program, which runs throughout the school year, provides support to both Summer Academy participants and non-participants.
* Due to the change of the fiscal year from September 30 to June 30 starting with FY2014, FY2014 was shortened to nine months, from October 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014. The Summer Academy Program expenditures for FY2014 included only expenditures on the BRAG mentoring program during the 2013-14 school year. Expenditures on the 9th and 10th grade Summer Academy Program during the summer of 2014 were included in FY2015.
Attendance in the 9th grade program (which has returned to a three-week program since 2007) has been averaging about 56 students each summer. The 10th grade program drew 24 students in its first summer and 21 students in the 2013 summer. A steady group of students attend the BRAG sessions during the school year, enough for 2 or 3 classrooms.
The FY2016 9th Grade Summer Academy
The FY2016 Summer Academy program was held in the summer of 2015, shortly after the start of the Foundation’s fiscal year on July 1. Fifty participants attended the three week 9th Grade Summer Academy. Two math teachers from Westland joined the faculty this year, a helpful addition since these teachers already knew the program participants. Students attended classes and presentations, including a session taught by Principal Jones, to help them acclimate to 9th grade. The program culminated with a closing session with the parents. Kerri Mauer, B-CC English teacher at the Summer Academy, reported that student participants, each taking on different roles, read a play (“A Raisin in the Sun”) aloud and enjoyed viewing the footage of their performance. “Summer Academy stands out as the most important and meaningful way I have ever been able to reach students and help them get set on a better academic and social course as they prepare for high school,” said Ms. Mauer.
The FY2016 10th Grade Summer Academy
This one-week program, open to previous year’s 9th Grade Academy students, had 25 participants this year. Similar to past years, the participants did a personality inventory, worked with Navigant to assess skills and possible career choices, and looked at possible colleges and potential majors related to career choices. The community service project this year was painting the high school cafeteria. The visit to ProShares provided the opportunity for participants to meet with younger employees to explore and discuss the paths each took to find their job in the company.
Program Survey Results
The 2013 9th Grade Summer Academy
- 58 students, 39 boys and 19 girls, with a demographic mix of students from within the B-CC cluster area.
- At the end of the three-week program, participants felt prepared for the 2013-14 school year. On a scale of 1 to 3, with 3 being “confident or very comfortable”, the incoming 9th graders gave a 2.3 to 2.6 to the following questions on the survey form completed at the end of the program:
- Being prepared for the first day of 9th grade 2.3
- Knowledge of school resources 2.5
- Potential to be academically successful 2.6
- Overall confidence in oneself 2.6
- Ability to handle stressful situations 2.3
The 2013 10th Grade Summer Academy
- 21 students, all had attended the 9th Grade Summer Academy during the 2012 summer.
- For the 10th Grade Summer Academy, participants felt that they got a lot out of the week. On the program evaluation forms, students indicated that they enjoyed:
- “Learning about all the things that occur after high school.”
- “Searching for what careers and colleges I’m going to.”
- “Going on the tour of the workplace.”
- Participants also rated as most insightful or eye-opening the following activities:
- “Looking up college information.”
- “All the options available after high school because I never knew there were so many.”
- “The study skills project because it opened my eyes to how many study options there are.”
The 2012 9th Grade Summer Academy
- 48 participants
- All participants rated themselves as “comfortable” and “prepared for 9th grade” at the end of the program
- The following two comments captured the essence of all the narrative responses:
- “It was awesome. I love it here. I got to know some of the teachers and it was a very good three weeks.”
- “It helped me be less afraid of high school. I think the Study Skills class helped the most because I never studied, but now I will.”
The 2012 10th Grade Summer Academy
- 24 participants
- All had positive feedback and stated that “they got a lot out of the week”
The 2011 9th Grade Summer Academy
- 57 participants
- All participants rated the program very favorably
- 91% would recommend the Summer Academy to a friend starting B-CC the following year
- 67% have participated in extracurricular activities or athletic teams during 2011-2012 school year
- 58% have done community service since the school year began
- In both instances students reported that, for the most part, their interest in participating was sparked by the Summer Academy.
The 2010 9th Grade Summer Academy
- 100 invitees
- 52 participants
- An overwhelming majority of participants felt “fairly” or “very” comfortable in their preparation for the first day of 9th grade at the conclusion of the 2010 program
- After the first grading period, % of students eligible for extra-curricular activities (GPA >2.0):
- 86% among Summer Academy participants
- 86% among the entire 9th grade
- 66% among Summer Academy invitees who had declined participation
- Summer Academy participants’ average GPA was almost 12 percentage points higher than invitees who declined participation
- After completing two grading periods in ninth grade, more than 75% of participants surveyed reported they would recommend the program to a friend entering ninth grade at B-CC
- Many Summer Academy participants continued to be involved in community service after the program ended. Of these, 70% reported that the Summer Academy had sparked their interest in performing community service
The 2005 9th Grade Summer Academy
- 45 participants
- Pre- and post-program surveys results showed a large shift among the participants from being afraid and feeling unprepared for high school to feeling very comfortable. On various aspects of high school, the percentage of participants who felt afraid and uncomfortable declined while the percentage of participants who felt confident and very comfortable increased:
|% of Participants|
|Afraid/Not Comfortable||Confident/Very Comfortable|
|Being prepared for the first day of 9th grade?||7||2||20||56|
|Knowledge of school resources?||20||0||22||40|
|Taking leadership role in school?||31||13||7||31|
|Potential to be academically successful?||7||0||40||62|
|Ability to work cooperatively with others?||2||0||67||93|
|Overall confidence in oneself?||2||2||56||76|
|Ability to handle stressful situations?||16||0||42||49|
|Knowing what is needed to successfully begin and complete high school education?||11||2||44||62|
|When faced with difficult circumstances, academic or not, do you have an adult you can ask for help?||4||2||58||69|