A nonprofit founded in 1992

Be Extraordinary: BELL To Expand Summer Learning Opportunities & Increase Student Achievement In 21 States

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BOSTON, June 16, 2015 - BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), a nonprofit provider of evidence-based summer learning programs, will join school and community partners across the country this summer to expand learning opportunities for more than 13,000 students in grades K-8.

BELL will launch new programs in California, Illinois, North Carolina, and South Carolina, in addition to its ongoing work in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio. In addition, BELL will grow its partnership with the YMCA of the USA and bring the Power Scholars Academy™ and the new Power Scholars Camp to students in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Washington, and Washington, DC.

The program expansions reflect in part the results of formative assessments last summer showing BELL "scholars" achieved growth in their math and literacy skills.

Of the 9,377 elementary and middle school students who participated in the 2014 programs, 69 percent began the summer seriously underperforming on their reading skills, scoring in the bottom 25 percent on their initial classroom test. Fifty-four percent of the students were seriously underperforming in math. By the end of the five- or six-week program, the underperforming children had gained more than two months of reading skills and three months of math skills. They avoided summer learning loss and returned to school in better prepared to succeed.

BELL's summer learning programs also were successful in boosting scholars' social and emotional skills and increasing their interest in school and learning. Nine out of ten teachers reported that scholars gained in self-confidence, for example, while 9 of 10 parents reported their children displayed a more positive attitude toward school. Some 95 percent of the teachers also said their participation helped further develop their own professional skills.

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

During the summer months, many children lack quality learning experiences and thus lose 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.

This summer, BELL and its partners will again target for enrollment students who are struggling in school and who lack affordable and high-quality summer learning opportunities in their communities. Programs will operate in Boston, MA; Baltimore, MD; Newark, NJ; New York City, NY; Charlotte, Durham, Wilmington & Winston-Salem, NC; Greenville, SC; Dayton, OH; San Jose, San Bernadino, San Rafael, & Oakland, CA, and East St. Louis, IL. Through its partnership with the YMCA of the USA, additional programs will operate in Montgomery and Selma, AL; Hartford, CT; Denver, CO; San Antonio & Houston, TX; St. Paul, MN; Washington, DC; Clearwater, St. Petersburg & Orlando, FL; Boise, ID; Cincinnati, OH; Louisville, KY; St. Louis, MO; San Diego, CA; Omaha, NE; Boston, MA; Jamestown, NY; Grays Harbor, WA; and Sacramento, CA.

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. Students are tested at the beginning and end of the program with formative assessments built for measuring progress against Common Core State Standards.