DORCHESTER, MA, January 20, 2016 – In middle schools across the country, students attending summer learning programs organized by BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) showed significant gains in reading and math skills. Thanks to a new three-year $3.5 million investment from the New York Life Foundation, BELL and its partners are now planning to build on this success and serve more than 11,000 middle school scholars in total over the next three summers.
“By the time a student completes the eighth grade, it is our responsibility to ensure that he or she possesses the knowledge, confidence, and determination to succeed in high school, graduate on time and pursue a meaningful career path,” said Tiffany Gueye, Ph.D., BELL’s CEO. “We are grateful for the opportunity to continue improving and expanding the summer learning programs and partnerships that play such an important role in preparing middle school scholars to excel.”
With this grant, the New York Life Foundation joins the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and The Wallace Foundation as one of BELL's leading partners in expanding and improving summer learning opportunities for youth.
“It’s one of the Foundation’s priorities to help middle school students transition from middle school to high school and summer programs are a critical component,”said Marlyn Torres, senior program officer at the New York Life Foundation. “It has been well documented that children experience learning losses when they do not engage in enriching activities during the summer. With our support, BELL will expandits reach and provide thousands of children with high quality summer programs that will make a difference in their academic achievement level as well as their social, physical and emotional development.”
New assessment results from the end of BELL’s summer learning programs in 2015 showed that students participating in the programs gained academic skills and avoided summer learning loss. Middle school students – which comprise 2,600 of the 13,300 scholars who participated in BELL’s summer programs - gained one and one-half months of reading skills and three and one-half months of math skills, rather than losing two or more months to “summer learning loss.”
For most of those attending, the alternative would have been the “summer slide,” losing at least two months in reading and math skills during the school break for lack of access to summer camps, family travel or other structured learning opportunities.
Outcomes are measured by computer-adaptive assessments administered at the beginning and end of each BELL summer program. Teachers and parents also reported the students made important gains in self-confidence and social skills and teachers overwhelmingly agreed the summer work had helped them develop their professional skills.
BELL’s summer learning programs blend rigorous academic instruction with hands-on enrichment activities and community engagement. BELL and its partners prioritize enrolling students who are struggling in school and who lack access to summer learning programs. The nonprofit delivers direct service programs in partnership with schools and community organizations in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, North & South Carolina, California and Ohio. BELL also trains other organizations, including the YMCA and its national network of associations, to deliver programs that meet high standards of quality. Summer learning programs operate for up to eight hours a day, five days per week, for as many as seven weeks.
In addition to the academic impact of summer learning, students strengthen their self-confidence and social skills, participate in physical activities and access nutritious meals. Nine out of ten students increase their self-confidence and show an improved ability to overcome challenges, according to teachers, while nine out of ten students enjoy their summer learning experience, according to parents. The summer programs also help nine out of ten parents become more involved in their child’s education – such engagement is shown to be among the most powerful influencers of a student’s academic and life trajectory.
BELL and its partners’ programs are supported by a blend of public resources, including Title I funding and in-kind contributions of school facilities, as well as private resources in the form of grants and donations from local and national foundations, corporations and individuals. Support from the New York Life Foundation will enable BELL to build on its successful middle school programs in communities such as Baltimore, Boston, and Charlotte, as well as to create more opportunities for middle school students via its partnership with the YMCA of the USA.
About The New York Life Foundation
Inspired by New York Life’s tradition of service and humanity, the New York Life Foundation has, since its founding in 1979, provided $200 million in charitable contributions to national and local nonprofit organizations. The Foundation supports programs that benefit young people, particularly in the areas of educational enhancement and childhood bereavement. The Foundation also encourages and facilitates the community involvement of employees, agents, and retirees of New York Life through its Volunteers for Good program. To learn more, please visit www.newyorklifefoundation.org.