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Campaign for Grade-Level Reading: Bright Spots - Expanding summer learning options in Dayton, Ohio

Posted by Betsy Rubiner on December 15, 2014.

Bright Spots are written and produced by the Campaign to showcase the work in Grade-Level Reading communities to make progress on school readiness, school attendance and summer learning by 2016. Continue reading below or download a PDF version.

In Dayton, Ohio, two programs offered to prevent "summer slide" - the loss of learning that occurs when children are out of school for several months - have produced encouraging results.

Both full-day programs were part of a summer 2014 effort to expand existing community efforts to address summer learning loss. They were provided free-of-charge to K-8 students in high-poverty schools who are particularly at risk of summer slide because many do not read on their own or are not involved in summer enrichment activities.

"If we aren't engaging and teaching our children over the summer, we're losing precious time," says Becky Coughlin, executive director of the Iddings Foundation in Dayton, which was a financial supporter. "Summer is our chance to give extra attention to children, especially those who are behind."

Almost 500 students in two Dayton-area school districts attended the five-week Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL) program - based in Boston and operating in 18 cities, including Dayton for the first time - in 2014. And 350 students attended the six-week Freedom Schools, created by Children's Defense Fund and operating in more than 100 cities, which grew from four to six Dayton-area sites in 2014.

Pre- and post-tests of students found that:

  • BELL students had an average grade-equivalent reading gain of 3.3 months. The average grade-equivalent math gain in months was 1.8. The improvements were even greater for students who tested in the lowest quartile at the start of the summer.
  • Freedom Schools students in all age groups at all sites made statistically significant gains in six literacy-related areas assessed such as passage reading fluency and multiple choice reading comprehension.


The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) helped the Dayton Region broaden its summer learning offerings, says Ritika Kurup of Learn to Earn Dayton/ReadySetSoar, a Dayton-area cradle-to-career partnership that is the lead organization for Dayton's GLR campaign.

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Part of a community-wide effort, the new summer opportunities added to longstanding efforts by multiple nonprofit organizations including the local YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club. "No one model is best for all of our kids," says Kurup.

United Way of the Greater Dayton Area and Omega Baptist Church in Dayton inspired Grace United Method Church in Dayton - a Freedom Schools site - to get involved, according to Sherry Gale, the church's pastor. "It is very inspiring to see young people increase not only their reading skills but also their love of reading and their sense of self and connection to the world around them," Gale said in a newspaper interview.

Some of the excitement in Dayton around the power of summer learning stemmed from a November 2013 NSLA conference, attended by 10 people from the region including librarians and school curriculum directors.

After the conference, a presentation was made to local school districts, which then chose their summer program and worked with United Way and Learn to Earn Dayton/ReadySetSoar in implementing the models. United Way coordinated all of the Freedom Schools sites, providing centralized fundraising, hiring, training and administrative supports.

Vectren, a local energy delivery company; Montgomery County, which includes Dayton; United Way; the City of Dayton; Montgomery County Educational Service Center; the Iddings Foundation; school districts; and several other local funders and donors joined together to support the two programs.

Another GLR Campaign resource important in building support was a "summer slide" video, narrated by NBC's Brian Williams. Kurup showed the video repeatedly, she says, "always to the same reaction - ‘Wow, we had no idea about the impact of summer learning loss!'"

One lesson learned was to start summer planning as early as possible. "Our partners worked incredibly hard to get these programs up and running quickly," says Kurup. "If we could do it all over, we would have started sooner, and this year we are."

For more information, contact Ritika Kurup at 937-236-9965 or ritika.kurup@readysetsoar.org. Photos: Larry C. Price for ReadySetSoar; Publication Date: Fall 2014. To nominate a community to be featured as a Bright Spot, please contact Betsy Rubiner at brubiner@gradelevelreading.net.