The Shader Croft School

Turning Student Selected Real World Adventures into Stronger Reading, Writing, and Communication Skills.

For Educators

The greatest challenge that schools face today, in spite of the best efforts of many, is the persistent achievement gap between high and low achieving students. According to researcher Karl Alexander from Johns Hopkins University, 2/3rds of the achievement gap, by the time a student enters 9th grade, is due to the lack of high-quality summer learning experiences for low achieving students.

Explanation: Low achieving students lose about one month of achievement during the summer (summer learning loss). High achieving students gain about two months of achievement due to engaging and enriching activities. The resulting Achievement Gap between high and low achieving students is approximately three months greater in September than in June. Over nine years (Kindergarten to 9th grade) that is a total of 27 months or approximately two and a half years. He also found that low and high achieving students during the school year progress about equally.

HOW Shader Croft addresses the Achievement Gap

Shader Croft School helps at-risk adolescents improve their literacy skills and, in turn, increase their chances of success in school. Our unique program design quickly engages students in the instruction of reading fluency and comprehension, vocabulary development, oral and written expression and youth development. Students identify something they are curious about and plan an adventure into the community to meet and learn from someone who shares that interest. The students read, write, and speak about the experiences, building skills and confidence in all areas. This has shown to be highly effective due to the student-centered, experiential and community-based design along with the integrated instructional model used. These community-based adventures are designed and led by the students which help them develop strong leadership and personal skills. Our program format also parallels the Personalized Learning Plan format schools are now adopting.

RESULTS of our work to address the Gap

In 2019, Shader Croft School contracted with Peer Associates, of Richmond, Vermont, an independent research firm, to conduct an external evaluation to assess the impact of the Shader Croft Summer Literacy program in the areas of reading comprehension and youth development. Shader Croft conducted two separate and distinct programs for students in 2019: a general and special education program and an ELL (English Language Learners) program. Each program was evaluated separately.

The analysis done by Peer Research found preliminary, quantitative and qualitative evidence as follows:

  • Shader Croft can have a measurable impact on participants’ literacy standardized test scores, particularly for ELL high school students but also ELL middle school students as determined by school spring and fall reading comprehension assessment measures
  • Shader Croft general education students had a slight increase in reading scores between spring and fall, while their peer students had a statistically significant summer slide.
  • Confidence building in learning and endurance to pursue difficult tasks was a key outcome in youth development skills.
  • Many students mentioned benefiting from improved language, learning and social skills.

Read the full “Summary of Evaluation Findings – The Shader Croft School 2019” for additional findings on each program.

In the early years, we knew the program was impactful because the students, their teachers and their parents told us it was. Qualitative data gathered from students, parents and teachers since 2011 reflects gains in multiple literacy and youth and social emotional development areas as reflected in these graphs.

The student-centered and experiential design of the Shader Croft program, focusing on literacy skill development (reading fluency and comprehension, word knowledge and oral and written expression) and youth and social emotional development, employed via an integrated and focused instructional model, brings results, as validated by these many data points.


Summer experiences, or lack of, is a major contributor to the Achievement Gap. It accounts for 2/3rds of the Achievement Gap. The other 1/3rd is due to the difference in achievement levels when children start kindergarten.

Programming For Students

Shader Croft offers two different literacy-focused summer programs. One program is specifically for ELL students and one is for General and Special Education students.

Services For Schools

Shader Croft offers consulting services to help schools develop their own research based summer literacy program and professional development learning opportunities to support such programming.

English Language Learners

For new Americans, developing language skills is critical to their success in their new country. Shader Croft’s small group sizes and community-based experiences provide them with both context and practice that accelerates their language acquisition and much more.

General and Special Education Services

Students who are seeking to bring their reading, writing and oral communication skills up to grade level find Shader Croft very helpful. It has also helped them develop the social and emotional skills necessary to succeed in school and the community.

Consultation Services


Shader Croft has been helping students since 2001 improve their literacy skills and social and emotional competence. Our program is not the typical summer enrichment or remedial program. It is thoughtfully designed based upon solid research in a variety of different areas.

Professional Development Services

Shader Croft has developed professional learning opportunities for educators that range from in-service programs to graduate level coursework. All of these learning opportunities are research based and reflect what we have learned and discovered from our summer programming since 2001.


Students, parents and educators all agree that the Shader Croft experience was exceptional as reflected in the comments below.

“It is clear that my student truly benefited from the Shader Croft experience. He made gains as evidenced on standardized assessments and class and homework. He has become a positive leader and seems to have built self-esteem from the activities and experiences in the program.”

Classroom teacher

“All of his teachers and parents see a different kid this year. He is much more confident, from the first day of school.”

 Special educator

“This was perhaps the MOST positive experience of her life…for a student who has NOTHING in the summer this gave her meaning! Thank you.”

“Shader Croft has been a tremendous experience for my student. She has grown not only academically, but also socially and emotionally as a result of attending.”

“Shader Croft has been instrumental in serving my student as a learner in all domains: oral expression, writing and reading.”

“Ixxx has begun referring back to the text when looking for context with new vocabulary. She is much more confident in using new words in writing and in conversation.”

“His reading fluency and comprehension have greatly improved since the beginning of the summer. He demonstrates his understanding in multiple ways.”

“Bxxx has improved his ability to summarize and include important details from articles that we are reading in his social studies class.”

“Since his interest in vocabulary has improved, so have his reading comprehension skills.”

“Axxx gained two levels at the beginning of the school year in the Lexia reading program. This is an increase from where he ended the program in June. Not only did he avoid the summer slide, he was able to increase his decoding, fluency and comprehension skills.”

“Since his sense of himself as a student has grown, so has his ability to ask relevant questions about the work he is doing.”

“Bxxx is open about his challenges, and is working to advocate for help when he needs it.”

“Increase in ability to summarize instead of just copying when attempting a summary.”

“XXX struggled at the end of last year retelling any part of the story or characters. Now XXX can retell a simple story and put events in order.”

“XXX has shown a lot of improvement in writing, mastering the use of past tense and adding a lot of details to his writing.”

“At the end of last year, (ELL student) was just leaving the silent phase and responding in one- or two-word utterances. This year, XXX is speaking in complete sentences.”

Additional Comments

“XXX was able to accurately use terms like “gratitude”, “conclusion”, and “curiosity”. Her writing has shown real improvement.”

“My student seems to have really benefited from this program. She is happier, more capable and more willing to try new things. Great job!”

“When she came to our team we asked her about her Shader Croft experience and she was quite excited about it and was happy to explain her adventures/experiences in detail. She was very happy that she was able to determine her own project. That allowed me to let her parents know about some after-school programs that she might be interested in based on her interest in art.”

“I think this program is amazing and I know this student looked forward to it and loved talking about it with me once we got back into school this year. She loved it and I think it is amazing for her to have this opportunity to work this much with adults and peers on school work and the field trips.”

“She is sharing her thinking in mathematics class and acknowledges that she wants to share even more in her other classes. She is gaining confidence in her ability to share an idea.”

“Much more confident, emerging leadership skills.”

“Her attendance has improved from last year. She seems to enjoy school.”

Her weekly written reflections are more in depth! She has been writing a bit more in her reflections and is writing in complete sentences.”


Shader Croft is a research-based program. We use research from many different areas and apply it throughout the program to create an effective integrated whole. These resources are a sampling on which we base our program design and instructional practices.

Shader Croft School

Summer Achievement Gap

Educational Theory

Word Knowledge