Boston Summer Learning Project wins national award

Program targeted at low-income students leads to proven academic growth

(Source: Boston Public Schools – Press Release)

BOSTON — The Boston Summer Learning Project has been named a national winner of the New York Life Excellence in Summer Learning Award. The annual award recognizes summer programs that demonstrate excellence in accelerating academic achievement and promoting healthy development for low-income young people.

Launched in 2010, the Boston Summer Learning Project now serves more than 1,700 youth from 51 schools in partnership with 18 nonprofit agencies as part of a citywide collaboration among the Boston Public Schools, Boston After School & Beyond, and the Boston Opportunity Agenda. The project has attracted national funding from philanthropies such as The Wallace Foundation. According to teacher observations, in 2011, students’ English Language Arts skills improved by 12 percent and math skills improved by 17 percent. Last year, English Language Learners demonstrated particularly significant gains – 32 percent in ELA and 33 percent in Math.

“The Boston Summer Learning Project is making a difference because of strong partnerships — between the city, our schools, nonprofits, teachers, parents, and students,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said. “Learning shouldn’t stop in the summer months, and through these partnerships our students are getting a head start for fall. We’re proud to have doubled the number of Boston students participating in summer educational experiences and are honored to receive this award.”

“These outstanding programs are making a real impact on the lives of children,” said Sarah Pitcock, Vice President of Program Advancement of the National Summer Learning Association. Two other programs: the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School in Charlotte, North Carolina and the Connecticut Pre-Engineering Program Summer Gaming Challenge were named recipients of the 2013 award. “They serve as models of what summer programs can accomplish.”

Each student at the Dever-McCormack Tenacity Summer Learning Project program received two cooking classes with the chefs from Haley House.Eighteen nonprofits, ranging from Thompson Island in Boston Harbor to Sportsmen’s Tennis on Blue Hill Avenue, activate academics through engaging hands-on activities, which take place in a variety of locations in addition to schools, including college campuses, workplaces, and natural preservations.

“The diversity of programs and places involved is a major strength of the approach,” said Chris Smith, executive director of Boston After School & Beyond, which co-manages the project with the Boston Public Schools. “The consistent approach to measurement enables each program to build on its strengths and address its weaknesses.”

Geoffrey Rose, the Dean of Students at the Dever-McCormack K-8 School in Dorchester, says the expanded summer opportunities are making a difference for his students. “One of the biggest strengths of this program is that we can see individual improvements and growth in various aspects of our students’ lives,” he said. “In addition to strengthening and supporting specific math and literacy skills, we have also seen our students interact more respectfully with each other by working hard and working together.” The Summer Learning Project program at the Dever-McCormack includes a partnership with Tenacity, which allows students to be highly engaged in academic instruction in the morning and then shift to build tennis skills, fitness and stamina in the afternoon.

“The Boston Opportunity Agenda co-developed and funds the Summer Learning Project to transform the way we think about summer,” said Kristin McSwain, Executive Director of the Boston Opportunity Agenda. “This award recognizes the great partnerships that we are building between the rich cultural assets of Boston and Boston Public Schools to make a difference in the lives of Boston’s kids.”

“The educators and community partners deserve this national recognition because what they have accomplished in Boston is truly revolutionary,” said Boston School Committee Chair Michael O’Neill. “It is a successful program by nearly every measure and we look forward to offering these great summer experiences for even more students in the future.”

“In this program, Boston Public Schools teachers spend time with students bridging the gap between the spring and the fall,” said BPS interim Superintendent John McDonough. “Together with our partners this program creates a seamless school experience to accelerate student learning and help close achievement gaps.”

The Boston Summer Learning Project is one of several expanded summer programs that are offered to BPS students this summer. Taken together, 11,500 BPS students are participating in summer learning experiences this year – approximately one in every five students, which is twice as many as five years ago.