A nonprofit founded in 1992

Tipping Point Community: BELL Stems the Tide of Summer Learning Loss

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Published August 4, 2014

Learning comes in many forms over the summer months. Whether it's museum hopping, joining a sports team, attending camp, or getting to know new places on vacation, summertime stimulation is especially critical for children. In fact, a child who goes without structured summer activity loses about 20% of the literacy and math skills from the academic year and misses out on important social and emotional development.

While summer learning is important for all children, the stakes are highest for those who are already academically behind. Kids from struggling districts have a greater need to capitalize on the extra time and input, and if they don't have access to good opportunities or are unable to afford them, they face greater risks like gang involvement and experimentation with drugs and alcohol.

Tipping Point grantee BELL blends rigorous academics (math and reading in the morning) with high-quality enrichment and community engagement (things like animation, physics and Japanese language in the afternoon) for nearly 9,000 scholars across the country each summer. BELL trains principals and teachers at partner schools to lead its summer program, based on over 21 years of research about what works best in expanded learning time. By attracting enough philanthropic support to demonstrate strong student outcomes (gains of nearly a third of a grade-level in just six weeks), BELL has caused more and more schools to direct their own funding to expand summer learning.

"Javier is going into 7th grade, but on the BELL Summer math pretest he was below the 2nd grade level. The first time he did a multiplication chart, Javier only completed 30 boxes," said Ms. Harris, a BELL Summer teacher at Bridges Academy in San Jose, of one student in her class. "On the last day at BELL, Javier completed over 70 multiplication boxes in the three-minute time limit and his overall math score increased to around a 4th grade level. He told me he was taking his workbooks home to teach his dad, since his dad never went to school."

In 2012, Tipping Point invested $250,000 in seed funding to help bring BELL to the Bay Area. Since then, BELL has expanded to serve nearly 700 students annually in San Jose and San Rafael. Among the organization's goals for the next year is a desire to strengthen training, quality assurance and resources for English language learners. BELL will continue to advance its IT systems and support teachers as they use data to drive instruction. And finally, BELL is building a local Leadership Council to support partnership development, fundraising, and communication.