A nonprofit founded in 1992

Summer Programs Boost Scholar Achievement

BOSTON, Oct. 21, 2014 - More than 9,300 elementary and middle school students around the country gained English language arts and math skills by participating in summer learning programs, according to new assessment data.

The students participated in summer learning programs that blended rigorous academic support with hands-on enrichment activities and community engagement. Programs operated for an average of 7 hours per day, 5 days per week, for 6 weeks and were delivered at schools or community organizations in partnership with BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), a national nonprofit organization.

According to BELL's Summer Learning Impact Report, data from STAR assessments by Renaissance Learning show that while all students, on average, gained skills, the return on investment was greatest for scholars who were struggling academically and who had the most to gain from high-quality summer learning opportunities. Underperforming students gained 2.4 months of reading skills and 3.5 months of math skills after just six weeks.*

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

"Our goal is to help scholars avoid summer learning loss and to help those who are performing below grade level to make up ground," said Dr. Tiffany Gueye, BELL's CEO. "Through school and community partnerships, teachers and other program staff helped scholars narrow the achievement gap and begin the new school year ready to excel."

In BELL's summer learning programs, scholars in grades K-8 participate in data-driven, small-group instruction in reading and math in the morning, followed by afternoon enrichment activities, field trips and community service. In addition to its BELL Summer model, the organization also delivered its new READy Scholars program, focused on helping scholars achieve grade-level proficiency in reading before they started fourth grade, and in partnership with the YMCA of the USA, the Power Scholars Academy.

"The academic gains are fantastic," said Dr. Beverly Emory, Superintendent of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina. "Even if we didn't see the gains, the program would still be worthwhile because of the chance it gives children to engage in learning in a different way and have experiences they would never have otherwise. I saw children crying at closing ceremonies because the program was ending. Imagine that. They were upset to be leaving school in the middle of summer."

Programs are supported by a blend of public resources, including Title I funding and in-kind contributions of school facilities, and private resources in the form of grants from local and national foundations, corporations, and individuals.

During the summer months, many children lack quality learning experiences and lose academic skills over the school break. Such losses - two months or more each summer -- accumulate year after year. Recent studies have shown that by the end of eighth grade, summer learning loss can account for 66 percent of the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their higher-income peers.

BELL's programs operated in thirteen states and the District of Columbia:

  • The BELL Summer program served more than 7,000 students and families in Oakland, San Jose, and San Rafael, CA, Baltimore, MD, Boston, MA, Newark, NJ, New York City, NY, Charlotte, Wilmington, and Winston-Salem, NC and Dayton, OH.
  • The READy Scholars program enrolled more than 1,000 students in Winston-Salem, NC.
  • More than 1,000 scholars participated in the Power Scholars Academy in Montgomery, AL, Denver, CO, Hartford and East Hartford, CT, Orlando and Clearwater, FL, St. Paul, MN, San Antonio, TX, and the District of Columbia, through partnerships with the YMCA of the USA and YMCA Associations.
* "Underperforming" scholars score in the lowest quartile on STAR assessments at the start of the summer: Urgent Intervention (1-10th percentile) or Intervention (11-25th percentile)