A national nonprofit founded in 1992

Baltimore's expanded summer learning program yields gains in reading and math skills for 1,900 K-8 students


BALTIMORE, Jan. 9, 2017 - An expanded summer academic and enrichment program aimed at closing the achievement gap among under-resourced students by boosting reading and math schools produced strong results in 2016, new test results show.

Last summer, 1,426 K-5 students, and 453 sixth to eighth graders from 14 Title 1 schools attended the free summer program. This expansion reflects Baltimore City Public Schools' decision to double the size of the elementary school program, while helping middle school students stay on track for grade-level success and high school graduation.

According to computer-adaptive assessments, participating students-recognized as scholars in the program-in grades K-5 gained two months in reading skills and one month in math skills in just five weeks of summer work, the equivalent of 20 percent and 10 percent of a school year. Middle school scholars gained 1 month in reading skills and three months in math. In a survey, 96 percent of participating elementary school teachers reported an increase in scholars' self-confidence, while 96 percent of parents reported increased involvement in their child's education. Also, 90 percent of middle-school teachers reported that BELL helped develop their professional skills, while 91 percent of parents reported an improved ability from scholars to overcome challenges.

During the summer months, many at-risk children lack quality learning experiences, losing 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

For more than a decade, BELL has partnered with Baltimore City Public Schools to deliver this expanded summer and after-school program. Since 2010, BELL has operated as the district's mandatory summer program for middle school students at risk of being retained at grade-level. The Baltimore elementary school program was launched in 2015 with the support of the Norman R. Rales & Ruth Rales Foundation.

"Our Baltimore programs are demonstrating that BELL's academic and enrichment summer learning model can be highly successful even when scaled up," said Damon Johnson, BELL's executive director for Maryland programs. "Working closely with our partners in Baltimore City Public Schools, we hope to continue to make up for lost academic ground during the summer and improve the life trajectories of our scholars."

The summer program operated 6.5 hours a day, five days a week for five weeks at 11 elementary school sites and three middle schools. BELL programs serve scholars who would benefit the most from personalized summer learning opportunities and social and emotional skill development. They blend small-group instruction in reading and math with hands-on enrichment courses, activities and field trips. Scholars are tested at the beginning and end of the program with advanced, computer-adaptive STAR Assessments, built for measuring scholars' growth in skills needed to succeed during the school year.

About BELL

BELL is a national leader in evidence-based out-of-school time learning programs for K-8 students. Founded in 1992, BELL serves over 14,500 scholars in public schools across the country through its summer and after-school programs. BELL expands out-of-school time education to close the achievement gap among children living in under-resourced communities through partnerships with schools, school districts, and other youth-serving organizations. Visit www.experienceBELL.org for more information.

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