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Summer Learning Partnerships Boost Student Achievement in Winston-Salem

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WINSTON-SALEM, Nov. 24, 2015 - More than 1,100 Winston-Salem/Forsyth County third- and fourth-graders showed impressive growth in their reading skills this summer. The gains were the result of a summer reading program, READy Scholars, offered through a partnership between the school district and BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life). Nearly 500 middle school students also showed gains in reading and math skills, as a result of their participation in summer learning.

The programs were designed for children with the greatest need for more learning time to strengthen their academic skills, self-confidence, and social skills.

Scholars were invited from across the district and attended the READy Scholars program at one of eight elementary schools: Easton, Hall-Woodward, Kernersville, Konnoak, Mineral Springs, North Hills, Petree and Speas. The 1,108 third- and fourth-graders who enrolled in the program were selected due to underperformance on state reading tests. By the end of the five-week program, the BELL "scholars" had gained a full two months of reading skills, equivalent to 20 percent of learning in a school year.

"The scholars were engaged; the program was well-run and organized; the work done by students was on display; the teachers said they could see that their efforts were making a difference; and the targets and goals for the program were specific and focused," said Lori Goins Clark, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board Member. "This is just the type of program necessary for students who need to make progress - and it is proof that they can, if given targeted help!"

The READy Scholars summer learning program was successful on other levels as well, with 96 percent of teachers reporting their students had gained self-confidence over the course of the program and 86 percent of parents reporting that READy Scholars helped them become more involved in their child's education. Ninety-seven percent of teachers reported that the program helped them develop their professional skills.

READy Scholars is one part of a longer-running partnership between BELL and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools that began in 2012 with a summer learning program for middle-school students who were struggling academically. This summer BELL served 478 such scholars through its middle-school program. That program, which focused on both reading and math skills, helped underperforming scholars gain an average of three months of math skills as well as two months of reading skills.

The middle-school program ran during the same five-week period as the READy Scholars initiative and exposed scholars to a rich array of enrichment activities such as dance, financial literacy and the Dare to Be King/Queen character-building curriculum. As a result, 88 percent of parents reported they would recommend the BELL program to other parents; 85 percent reported the program helped them become more involved in their child's education, and 85 percent reported their child was more self-confident as a result of BELL's program.

For most scholars attending both READy Scholars and the middle-school program, the alternative would have been the "summer slide," losing at least two months in reading and math skills during the summer break. The academic loss can be attributed to lack of access to summer camps, family travel or other learning opportunities.

"The BELL programs offer a unique opportunity for scholars to make up ground," said Jerri Haigler, BELL's Executive Director for the Carolinas. "Summer learning opportunities have the greatest impact on exactly those scholars who stand to benefit the most - those who are struggling academically and who need more time-on-task."

Student success was driven by leaders from schools across the county. BELL awarded one of them, Cindy Rash, an assistant principal during the school year and READy Scholars program manager during the summer, with the Peterkin Educational Leadership Award for her excellence in impact. Her leadership and dedication to student success stood out most from the 114 program managers who led summer learning programs in 2015.

 
 

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