DORCHESTER, MA, Oct. 27, 2015 – From California to North Carolina and Massachusetts to Florida, students attending summer learning programs organized by BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) showed significant gains in reading and math skills, new test results show.
In all, more than 13,000 scholars in grades K-to-8 attended the summer programs this year, up 43 percent compared to the 9,300 served in 2014. The scholars gained an average of two months in reading skills and three months in math skills during their 5-to-7-week programs, the equivalent of 20 percent and 30 percent of a school year, respectively.
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.
“There is no question that a lack of access to quality summer experiences contributes to the achievement gap in our schools,” said Lauren Gilbert, Ed.D., BELL’s Vice President of Impact & Innovation. “All kids can lose two months of math skills during the summer and low-income children are especially at risk of losing two months of reading skills. So everything we do is focused not only on avoiding that summer slide but on making up ground lost in previous years.”
The students participated in a summer program that blended rigorous academic support and instruction in the morning with hands-on enrichment activities and community engagement in the afternoon. Programs operated for 5-to-8 hours a day, 4-to-5 days per week and 5-to-7 weeks during the summer, utilizing 114 schools and community-based sites in 35 cities across 21 states. BELL and its partners prioritized enrolling students who were struggling in school and who lacked access to summer learning programs.
Summer outcomes show that scholars achieved similar gains in programs delivered directly by BELL, as well as programs delivered by BELL’s partners. BELL partners with local schools to strategically target and serve high-need students in some cities, while in others, the nonprofit partners with YMCA of the USA and local YMCA Associations, which deliver the Power Scholars Academy. More than 1,850 scholars participated in the Power Scholars Academy program this summer through 14 YMCAs.
In addition to the academic impact of summer learning, students strengthened their self-confidence and social skills, participated in physical activities, and accessed nutritious meals. Nine out of ten students increased their self-confidence and showed an improved ability to overcome challenges, according to teachers, while nine out of ten students enjoyed their summer learning experience, according to parents. The summer programs also helped nine out of ten parents become more involved in their child’s education.
Programs are supported by a blend of public resources, including Title I funding and in-kind contributions of school facilities, plus private resources in the form of grants and donations from local and national foundations, corporations and individuals, including Target, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, and others.