A nonprofit founded in 1992

Partnerships create summer learning opportunities for more than 850 students in Charlotte

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Scholars and staff at Huntingtowne Farms Elementary School kick off their summer learning experience.

Charlotte, NC - June 30, 2014 - Innovative partnerships are helping more than 850 students avoid summer learning loss, gain academic skills, and become better prepared for school in the fall. This marks the fourth summer that BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) has partnered with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and community organizations throughout the city to deliver summer learning programs that engage students in reading and math instruction, enrichment activities, field trips, and community service.

"When school ends, learning shouldn't stop," stated Jerri Haigler, Executive Director of BELL for the Carolinas. "Research shows that summer learning loss can create significant lapses in academic gains in reading and math, especially for low-income children. In fact, youth can lose more than two months in reading and math achievement over the summer months. The BELL Summer program offers free enriching activities that help scholars boost their academic skills and their self-confidence."

The goals of these summer learning programs include increasing students' literacy and math skills, strengthening their self-confidence and social skills, and engaging parents in the education process. BELL also produces seasonal jobs for local teachers and aspiring educators, further develops educators' skills, provides free nutritious breakfast and lunch for youth, and engages students in physical fitness, field trips, and community service.

The BELL Summer program will operate for 6-8 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. Academic instruction is led by certified teachers and supported by teaching assistants. Program managers, instructional coaches, and enrichment instructors also play key roles in delivering the high-quality learning experience.

Partnerships are designed to leverage each organization's strengths:

  • Project LIFT: Approximately 600 students in grades K-7 are participating in the BELL Summer program at four schools in Charlotte's West Corridor. As part of this effort, Teach Charlotte is helping to train and staff the summer learning programs, while One Laptop Per Child is providing hardware, curriculum, and training to boost scholars' digital literacy. The program is part of a broader strategy across the West Corridor to expand learning time, with other schools piloting longer school days and school years. This summer learning initiative is supported by local philanthropic support raised by Project L.I.F.T. and CMS, as well as by additional support raised locally and nationally by BELL.
  • A Child's Place: At Westerly Hills Elementary School, BELL and A Child's Place are working together to expand learning time for 120 homeless children. Together, the nonprofits deliver a high-dosage model that includes 8.5 hours of summer learning and activity daily. Participating scholars take swimming lessons at the YMCA. Both BELL and A Child's Place are raising philanthropic support for the program.
  • First Presbyterian Church: First Presbyterian Church hosts 60 scholars from Westerly Hills Academy in the BELL Summer program. The church has had a long-term partnership with Westerly Hills throughout the school year for several years and has offered the BELL Summer program for three years. Because of its uptown location, the program enriches student learning by incorporating field trips by foot to museums and educational institutions. The church raised a portion of the funding required from its congregation, while BELL raised additional funding from local and national sources.
  • Huntingtowne Farms & Devonshire Elementary Schools: This summer marks the launch of new partnerships between BELL and two elementary schools. A total of 134 scholars from these two schools are participating in the BELL Summer program.

These programs are available through Title I funding and in-kind support in addition to BELL raising funds from local sources, such as The Belk Foundation and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Foundation's Children and Youth program, an affiliate of the Foundation for the Carolinas, as well as national sources, such as Target and The Wallace Foundation. Another strong supporter of BELL in Charlotte over the years has been Sisters of Mercy - North Carolina Foundation.

Data from the past summers show that BELL's summer learning partnerships are having a positive impact on student achievement. Last summer, data from computer adaptive assessments showed that participating students gained the equivalent of 29% of a grade level in reading and 15% in math. Students who started the summer below grade level - the majority of students enrolled in the program - achieved the highest gains: 44% of a grade level in reading and 42% in math.

"Thanks to the support of our funders, our community partners, and the school district, we're expanding our scope and reach this summer," explained Jerri Haigler. "More than 800 scholars will receive quality summer programming, but even more than that, they'll participate in experiences that will prepare them to be successful next school year."

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