Governor Doug Ducey announced Wednesday a major step forward in continuing to catch kids up after the pandemic: AZ OnTrack Summer Camp will be funded for a second year.
The governor made the announcement at the Chris-Town YMCA, one of this year’s successful AZ OnTrack camp hosts, a day after a comprehensive report on the impact of the pandemic on student achievement was released showing nationwide declines in math and reading.
“In light of this barometer of our kids’ success, there’s no time to waste to catch our kids up. We must continue to pour on the gas in our efforts,” said Governor Ducey. “We know our kids lost ground during the pandemic – it was not good for them. In Arizona, we kept schools open, made critical investments in literacy programs and launched a summer camp to prevent further learning loss. Another round of AZ OnTrack Summer camp is sorely needed for our kids. This is a community effort and we cannot afford for our kids to lose more ground next summer. With more choices now than ever for their education, we will meet the moment.”
At the Arizona Alliance of YMCAs leadership meeting, YMCA leaders from around Arizona thanked the governor for the summer camp program.
Damon Olsen, CEO of the Prescott YMCA of Yavapai County, called it a “game changer” because the funding enabled them to hire certified teachers.
The YMCA leaders told the governor that Arizona’s summer camps should be a model for other states.
“You’ve definitely set a precedent that other states have to take large strides to catch up to,” said Kirsten Gray vice president of childcare at the Valley of the Sun YMCA.
AZ OnTrack Summer Camp was one of those programs. More than 70,000 campers across 685 camps in all 15 counties got to catch up on their math, reading and American civics this past summer. Many kids participated in multiple camps for a total of more than 96,000 camp experiences.
In addition to having fun at camp reconnecting with their peers, the academic results are notable – 86 percent of students either made progress towards, met, or exceeded the learning goals set for them at camp. In the higher grade levels, more than 5,300 academic credits were recovered, meaning more students will be on track for graduation.
Parents reported high levels of satisfaction with AZ OnTrack camps – 87 percent of parents said that AZ OnTrack camps were a help to their family and 70 percent said camp helped their children feel more excited to go back to school.
“This summer, we opened the doors for our kids to catch up on their learning in fun, engaging environments,” said Lisa Graham Keegan, AZ OnTrack chair and former state schools superintendent. “We saw how reconnecting students with their teachers, their school work and their peers reinvigorated their love of learning. Governor Ducey’s decision to fund AZ OnTrack for another successful summer shows his understanding that the only way to make up for lost time is to add time. I am so grateful for his dedication to Arizona’s parents, educators and students.”
The time spent this past summer with educators and peers was a vital part of eliminating learning loss demonstrated by the NAEP report. The national report card showed Arizona students closely followed the national decline in math. The state held its ground in reading scores with little to no change compared to 2019.
“There are some silver linings to these results,” said the governor. “It’s encouraging that reading scores remained level. Kids have to learn to read before they can read to learn. With critical investments like AZ OnTrack Summer Camp, we intervened and helped kids reignite their love of learning that was disrupted by the pandemic.”
More details on next year’s AZ OnTrack Summer Camp, along with a full report on this year’s camp outcomes, will be announced at a later date.
Arizona has made significant, targeted investments to close the achievement gap spotlighted by the pandemic in addition to AZ OnTrack Summer Camp.
In April 2021, the governor invested $17.75 million to expand the successful Project Momentum pilot so that more schools can access evidence-based strategies to increase academic achievement.
In January 2022, the governor invested $6 million for innovation grants through A for Arizona. The program distributes the dollars to highly innovative schools, teachers and educators who are reimagining education models, accelerating best practices, and innovating around community-based solutions, especially for kids in need.