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Public-Private Partnerships to Expand Summer Learning Opportunities for Baltimore Youth

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BALTIMORE, June 29, 2015 - Today BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) announced plans to partner with Baltimore City Public Schools and engage 1,200 of youth in summer learning programs. Part of this effort is the new City Schools Learning Express, a public-private collaboration leveraging the resources of the school district, BELL, and a coalition of donors led by the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation.

City Schools Learning Express is a full-day program that blends small-group academic support in the mornings with fun, hands-on enrichment experiences in the afternoons and field trips on Fridays. Reading and math instruction will be led by certified teachers and supported by assistant teachers, while the YMCA of Central Maryland contributes enrichment instructors and activities. Students will receive breakfast and lunch each day.

The program will be delivered from June 29 - July 31, Monday - Friday, from 8:30 - 3:00, at the following schools: Harlem Park Elementary/Middle School, The Historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary School, Arundel Elementary/Middle School, Samuel F.B. Morse Elementary School, Gilmor Elementary School, Pimlico Elementary/Middle School, Matthew A. Henson Elementary School, James McHenry Elementary/Middle School, James Mosher Elementary School, Maree G. Farring Elementary/Middle School, and Waverly Elementary/Middle School.

BELL is also partnering with Baltimore City Public Schools to serve 500 middle school students through a middle school promotion program. It will operate on the same schedule as City Schools Learning Express at Rognel Heights Elementary/Middle School and Guilford Elementary/Middle School. In addition to data-driven, small-group academic activities in the morning, middle school scholars will participate in a character development curriculum, Dare to Be King, created by Baltimore native David Miller. The curriculum aims to engage youth of color for emotional development, familial reconciliation, and academic success.

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.

Data from formative assessments show that students participating in BELL's summer learning programs gain reading and math skills and avoid summer learning loss. The greatest gains tend to be made by those students starting the summer furthest behind grade level. Participating students - recognized as "scholars" as part of the program's culture of high expectations - also gain self-confidence, strengthen their social skills, and improve their attitude toward school and learning.

"One of the most important things we can do for kids is to create opportunities for them to experience success both in and out of the classroom," explained Nadia Clarke, BELL's Executive Director in Baltimore. "By mobilizing the city's resources - its talent, its educational institutions, its commitment to youth - we can give kids the chance they need to fulfill their potential as learners and citizens."

The school district and city are supporting about 25% of the $1.1 million cost of City Schools Learning Express. BELL is raising funds from local and national sources to match the city's commitment. The Rales Foundation is contributing a grant of equal size, while a coalition of Baltimore-based donors, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, Abell Foundation, France-Merrick Foundation, Baltimore Community Foundation, Wright Family Foundation, and Cammack Family Gift Fund will also cover an equal portion of the cost. The YMCA of Central Maryland will contribute $100,000 to support enrichment programming in the afternoon. BELL and Baltimore City Schools are also sharing responsibility for funding the middle school promotion program.

In sum, for every $1 of public funding, partners will contribute more than $3 to expand summer learning opportunities for children in Baltimore.

"The Rales Foundation is very excited about partnering with BELL, City Schools, the Mayor's office and a select group of local foundations and donors to support a desperately needed high quality summer program for elementary school students," said Joshua Rales, the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation president and trustee. "The children in this program will not only build their academic skills, but have a lot of fun too, thanks to an outstanding staff and engaging enrichment curriculum."

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