BELL & YMCA of the USA expand summer learning programs and increase student achievement
BOSTON, NOVEMBER 18, 2014 - More than 1,100 elementary and middle school students around the country gained reading and math skills by participating in the Power Scholars Academy, a new summer learning program created by BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) and YMCA of the USA.
The program, based on BELL's evidence-based model, blended academic rigor with camp-like enrichment and community engagement activities and operated for 6.5 hours per day, 5 days per week, for 6 weeks. Staff from YMCAs and teachers from public schools, who were trained and supported by BELL, delivered the program at schools for students in grades K-8 who were struggling academically and who lacked access to summer learning opportunities in their community.
According to the new Power Scholars Academy Impact Report, data from STAR assessments 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 2.5 months of reading skills and 2.5 months of math skills.*
"Working together, BELL and the Y have forged an amazing partnership," said Jorge Perez, Vice President of Youth Development, Family Enrichment & Social Responsibility, YMCA of the USA. "This summer program works. It boosted students' reading and math scores along with their belief in themselves. We're motivated by what these children accomplished and are ready to expand the Power Scholars Academy."
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 improved their attitude toward school. The Power Scholars Academy also helped nine out of ten parents become more involved in their child's education.
"Summer learning is one of the most effective levers for increasing student achievement," said Dr. Tiffany Gueye, BELL's CEO. "Our partnership with YMCA of the USA and its national community-based network is helping us solve the challenge of scaling the impact of summer learning so that more scholars, schools, and communities benefit."
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 low- and high-income students.
In the Power Scholars Academy, scholars participated in data-driven, small-group instruction in reading and math in the morning, followed by afternoon enrichment activities, field trips and community service. At the start and end of the summer, students completed computer-adaptive STAR Reading and Math Assessments, which measured their academic progress against Common Core State Standards.
The program was provided free of charge for families in eight communities. Pilot programs started in 2013 in Hartford CT and Orlando FL expanded their programs, while new programs launched in Montgomery AL, Denver CO, Washington DC, Clearwater FL, St. Paul MN, and San Antonio TX.
YMCA Associations, the YMCA of the USA, BELL, and public school partners shared responsibility for program cost. The three nonprofit organizations raised philanthropic support from local and national sources, while schools contributed facilities, utilities, meals, etc.
In 2015, the Y and BELL plan to accelerate the scaling of the Academy through partnerships with local YMCAs to operate in up to 20 cities. By 2016, the Y and BELL have a goal of serving more than 5,000 scholars.
* "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)
BELL is one of the nation's leading nonprofit providers of quality expanded learning programs for children in grades K-8. Its mission is to transform the academic achievement, self-confidence and life trajectories of children living in low-income, urban communities. BELL serves more than 12,000 students in public schools across the country through its summer and after-school programs. Visit www.experienceBELL.org for more information.
ABOUT YMCA OF THE USA
The Y is one of the nation's leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Y's engage 22 million men, women and children - regardless of age, income or background - to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation's health and well-being and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change. ymca.net.