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Summer Learning Programs Increase Student Achievement in Baltimore

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BALTIMORE, November 16, 2015 - The more than 1,300 students who attended summer learning programs organized by BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) and Baltimore City Public Schools this past summer chalked up significant gains in reading and math skills, new test results show.

The 1,318 scholars in grades K-to-8 participated in BELL programs at two middle schools and 13 elementary schools around the city. Scholars gained an average of 2.5 months in reading skills and 2 months in math skills during the 5-week program, the equivalent of 25 percent and 20 percent of a school year, respectively.

For most of those attending, the alternative would have been the "summer slide," losing at least two months in reading and math skills during the school break for lack of access to summer camps, family travel or other learning opportunities. Students participating in academic and enrichment activities not only avoided summer learning loss but made up ground and were better prepared to succeed as they entered the new school year.

Teachers and parents also reported the students made important gains in self-confidence and social skills during the summer and teachers overwhelmingly agreed the summer work had helped them develop their professional skills.

"Expanding summer learning is really about creating opportunities for scholars to explore their interests, build their toolkit of academic, social, and emotional skills, be safe and supported by role models, and grow more engaged and determined to succeed on the first day of school," said Lauren Gilbert, Ed.D., BELL's Vice President of Impact & Innovation. "When schools and communities work together and share responsibility for student success, we create and sustain high-quality learning experiences that meet a broad range of student needs and produce meaningful and measurable student outcomes."

This summer marked the launch of the new City Schools Learning Express, a public-private collaboration that leverages the resources of the school district, BELL, and a coalition of donors led by the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation. The program served more than 600 children as is focused on boosting the grade level reading skills of first, second, and third graders. Also supporting the Learning Express are 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. The YMCA of Central Maryland provided enrichment programming in the afternoon.

This summer also marked the continuation of a long-standing partnership between BELL and Baltimore City Schools to share responsibility for funding and delivering a middle school promotion program. The middle school promotion program served 551 6th - 8th graders from across the city. BELL also continued to provide summer learning programs for students at Harlem Park and Graceland Park. This impact was also made possible through the support of The Family League of Baltimore City, The David and Barbara Hirschhorn Foundation, The Doris K. Marlow Memorial Fund, The T. Rowe Price Foundation, The Alvin and Fanny B. Thalheimer Foundation and The Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation.

The summer learning programs blended rigorous academic support and instruction in the morning with hands-on enrichment activities and community engagement in the afternoon. Programs operated for 6.5 hours a day, 5 days per week for 5 weeks during the summer. Scholars engaged in leadership and character development through the Dare To Be King / Queen curriculum, which was developed in Baltimore, as well as STEM, Dance, Fitness, and Arts & Crafts. They participated in field trips to the Smithsonian Institution, Morgan State University, and the Baltimore Museum of Art. BELL and its partners prioritized enrolling students who were struggling in school and who lacked access to summer learning programs.

In addition to the academic impact of summer learning, students strengthened their social skills, participated in physical activities and accessed nutritious meals. Nine out of 10 students increased their self-confidence, according to teachers, while nine out of 10 students enjoyed their summer learning experience, according to parents. The summer programs also helped nine out of 10 parents become more involved in their child's education.

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