A nonprofit founded in 1992

BELL & Partners in Charlotte Create Summer Learning Opportunities for 2,900 Students

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CHARLOTTE, June 22, 2015 - Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL) will join Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and community organizations throughout the city to expand summer learning opportunities for more than 2,900 students. Working together, the nonprofit and its partners will focus on serving students who are struggling in school and increasing their academic achievements and self-confidence while supporting their healthy social and emotional development.

This marks the fifth summer that BELL has run summer learning programs in Charlotte. This year, the programs will serve students (called "scholars" by BELL) in grades K-to-7, including 2,000 in the 2nd and 3rd grades who are experiencing difficulty in reading at grade level for the state's mandatory Read to Achieve program. BELL developed a special READy Scholars literacy program in 2014 to assist young readers who have fallen behind and will bring that program to Charlotte in 2015.

The Read to Achieve (READy Scholars) program, in partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, will begin June 22 and run until July 30 (six week program). The program will be housed in 12 CMS elementary sites, and students from across the county will be assigned to the nearest school location. Scholars will participate in the program from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Thursday afternoons will include field trips and activities. The READy Scholars program is expected to serve 2,000 students.

In other locations, the BELL Summer program will operate for 6-7 hours per day, 4-5 days per week, for 5-6 weeks, depending on the partnership. Programs are designed to serve students who are struggling in school and who need more time on task to succeed. They blend small-group instruction in reading and math in the morning with hands-on enrichment courses, activities and field trips in the afternoon and on Fridays. Students are tested at the beginning and end of the program with advanced, computer-adaptive STAR Assessments, built for measuring progress against the Common Core State Standards.

"Summer is no time for learning to stop, especially for scholars who need more time on task to succeed in school and beyond" stated Jerri Haigler, BELL's executive director for the Carolinas. "We're excited to bring high-quality summer learning opportunities to more Charlotte children this summer through our public and private partnerships."

Data from the past summers show that BELL's summer learning partnerships are making a difference. Of the 893 scholars who participated in the 2014 Charlotte program, 53 percent began the summer underperforming on their reading skills and 37 percent were underperforming in math. On average, these underperforming children gained 2.6 months of reading skills and 2.7 months of math skills over the course of the five- or six-week program. These are the same gains one would expect from a quarter of a school year.

Partnerships are designed to leverage each organization's strengths:

  • READy Scholars: This summer, BELL is bringing its READy Scholars model, which it launched last summer in Winston-Salem, to 2,000 rising 2nd and 3rd grade scholars in Charlotte. The model, focused on helping children meet North Carolina's requirement that students read proficiently at the end of 3rd grade, calls for scholars to rotate each morning through a series of reading stations including small-group instruction, independent and collaborative reading, literacy-building games and a blended learning station with interactive reading technologies. Afternoons are filled with field trips and enrichment courses like sports, science, technology and the arts that integrate literacy-building activities and provide opportunities for scholars to apply their reading skills.
  • Project L.I.F.T.: At four schools in Charlotte's West Corridor (Allenbrook, Ashley Park, Statesville Road and Ranson Middle), 320 scholars in grades K-7 will participate in the BELL Summer program. The program is part of a strategy across the West Corridor to expand learning time, with other schools piloting longer school days and school years. The Project L.I.F.T. summer initiative benefits from local philanthropic support raised by Project L.I.F.T. and by BELL.
  • First Presbyterian Church: Through a partnership with Westerly Hills Academy, First Presbyterian Church sponsors 60 scholars to participate in the BELL Summer program. The church has had a long-term partnership with Westerly Hills throughout the school year and this will be the fourth summer First Presbyterian has offered the BELL program. Because of its uptown location, the program enriches student learning with field trips to museums and educational institutions. The church's congregation provided a portion of the funding required while BELL raised additional funding.
  • Huntingtowne Farms, Devonshire Elementary Schools, and Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School: Supported in part through a grant by the Belk Foundation Wells Fargo Foundation, Sisters of Mercy of North Carolina Foundation, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Foundation children and youth grant (Foundation For The Carolinas), 140 elementary scholars and 120 7th graders will participate in the BELL Summer program.

These programs are supported by federal Title I funding, in-kind support and BELL fundraising, including local foundations such as The Belk Foundation, the Sisters of Mercy of North Carolina Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Foundation as well as national sources such as Target and The Wallace Foundation.

"The support of our funders, our community partners and the school district have been crucial to BELL expanding its services this summer," explained Haigler. "We know that our high-quality summer learning programs will provide our scholars with experiences that will prepare them to be successful next school year."

During the summer months, many children lack quality learning experiences and thus lose academic skills over the school break. Such losses - two months or more each summer -- accumulate year after year. Studies have shown that by the end of eighth grade, summer learning loss can account for 66 percent of the achievement gap between low- and high-income students.