A nonprofit founded in 1992

BELL & Partners To Launch Summer Learning Programs For 4,500 Scholars in North Carolina

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CHARLOTTE, June 15, 2015 - Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL) will partner with school districts and business and philanthropic groups in four North Carolina cities this summer to help an estimated 4,500 elementary and middle school students boost their reading and math skills while participating in an engaging, camp-like experience.

BELL, a leading education nonprofit that has developed and refined a summer learning program for at-risk children, will significantly increase its work in North Carolina with the expansion of programs in Charlotte and Wilmington and the launch of a new summer program in Durham. Existing programs and partnerships in Winston-Salem will continue.

In Charlotte and Winston-Salem, in addition to its regular instructional program, BELL will be helping the local school districts with focused literacy instruction for third grade students who are struggling to pass the mandatory state End-of-Grade reading test.

"In each city, our main goal is to help at-risk students succeed by gaining new academic skills, boosting their self-confidence and improving social skills," noted Jerri Haigler, BELL's executive director for the Carolinas. "The research is very clear in showing the need for high-quality academic instruction in the summer months to avoid summer learning loss."

In Charlotte, BELL expects to serve more than 2,900 scholars 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 reading test. BELL developed its special READy Scholars literacy program in 2014 in Winston-Salem to assist young readers who have fallen behind and will extend that program to the 2nd and 3rd graders in Charlotte in 2015. BELL expects 1,200 scholars in Winston-Salem to attend its READy Scholars program this summer.

In the READy model, scholars 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.

In other locations, the BELL Summer model will blend reading and math instruction in the morning with enrichment, community engagement and field trips in the afternoon. The program focuses on helping students avoid summer learning loss, gain new skills and prepare for high school.

Separately in Charlotte, The Belk Foundation, one of the Southeast's leading family foundations, has awarded an education grant that will enable BELL to provide academic and social enrichment opportunities to more at-risk students in grades K-3 this summer. The $75,000 grant will support BELL's school-based summer programs delivered in partnership with Devonshire Elementary and Huntingtowne Farms Elementary. BELL also received a $75,000 grant from the Sisters of Mercy of North Carolina Foundation to support these schools and others like Martin Luther King Middle. Other funders in Charlotte include the Foundation For The Carolinas Mecklenburg Community Foundation children and youth grant and Wells Fargo Foundation.

BELL also will be providing summer enrichment programs for more than 300 elementary and middle school students through a partnership with Project LIFT and schools in the West Corridor in Charlotte. Sites include Allenbrook Elementary, Ashley Park Elementary, Statesville Road Elementary and Ranson Middle.

Winston-Salem's elementary and middle school programs have received funding from The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, the Winston-Salem Foundation, Reynolds American, Duke Energy Foundation and other individual gifts. Winston-Salem will be serving 1,200 third and fourth grade students and 440 middle school students.

For a second summer in Wilmington, BELL will partner with the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Prevention of Youth Violence (BRC) to provide high-quality expanded learning experiences. That program will expand from 60 to 80 students and is designed to eliminate summer learning loss for at-risk kids on the North Side and reduce crime and violence by increasing the amount of learning time and structured activity for rising 7th and 8th grade students. Twenty scholars will be served in a new rising 9th grade program at New Hanover High School.

In Durham, BELL is working with the Duke University Office of Durham & Regional Affairs and their partner school, Lakewood Elementary, to provide a summer learning program for the first time to 60 elementary students.

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 over year. Studies have shown that by the end of eighth grade, summer learning loss can account for two-thirds of the achievement gap between low- and high-income students.

Student test data from last summer's BELL programs in North Carolina show they are working. In 2014, of the 2,485 scholars in grades K-8 who participated in BELL programs, 66 percent began the summer significantly underperforming on their reading skills, scoring in the bottom 25 percentile in reading at the start of the summer. Forty-five percent of the students were underperforming in math. By the end of the five- or six-week programs, those underperforming children had gained a full two months of reading skills. Of the 1,401 scholars who received both math and reading instruction, underperforming scholars made three months' gain in math.