A national nonprofit founded in 1992

BELL's first large-scale deployment of Pre-K model yields reading gains

Contact:Jaime Crespo


SAN MATEO, Calif., Jan. 9, 2017 -- The Big Lift's summer learning program Inspiring Summers, designed to prevent the academic achievement gap among underserved students, produced measurable gains in their reading skills, new test results show.

The first large-scale deployment of BELL's Pre-K educational model helped 317 rising kindergarteners gain an average of one month of reading skills - or the equivalent of 10 percent of a school year - in just five weeks. Also, 437 rising first-grade students gained an average of one month of reading skills in the program. The results are based on computer-adaptive assessments administered at the beginning and end of each summer program. By contrast, studies show that youth living in underserved communities lose two to three months in reading every summer compared to higher-income peers.

In addition, 9 out of 10 parents surveyed said their child had developed a more positive attitude about school and that the program helped them become more involved in their child's education. Ninety-three percent of teachers indicated that students' confidence levels increased.

BELL, a national leader in out-of-school time education, worked in partnership with local San Mateo County nonprofits and school districts to launch Inspiring Summers, whichserved rising Kindergartners and rising first graders from Jefferson Elementary, Cabrillo Unified, La Honda-Pescadero Unified, and South San Francisco Unified School Districts. Next year, the program will expand to serve as many as 1,500 students, including rising second graders. Offered at no cost to participating families, the full-day, five-week program provided literacy instruction in the mornings and experiential learning in science, art, technology, and math in the afternoons.

"Research increasingly shows the importance of addressing the academic achievement gap as early as Pre-K to prevent the yearly summer slide from ever starting. To prevent this snowball effect from ever occurring, it is critical to expand access to out-of-school academic enrichment programs much earlier in students' lives," said Tiffany Gueye, Ph.D., BELL's chief executive officer.

"It's really exciting to see this kind of impact in just the first year of operation, and we look forward to working with our partners to help transform the lives of these San Mateo County kids through the power of education," Gueye said.

According to The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. Yet every year, more than 80 percent of low-income children miss this crucial milestone.By the end of fifth grade, these students are nearly three grades behind in reading, making them less likely to graduate from high school and enter college. In San Mateo County, 27 percent of Latino, African-American and Pacific Islander children read proficiently by third grade, a statistic that may be due in part to a lack of access to summer learning.

Inspiring Summersis one pillar of The Big Lift-a collective impact effort to support the young students of San Mateo County. Support for The Big Lift is made available through San Mateo County Measure A tax dollars, a Social Innovation Fund grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service(CNCS), the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the San Mateo County Office of Education, Google.org, and hundreds of other partners who are all interested in improving the lives of San Mateo County young people.

About The Big Lift

The Big Lift is a bold social venture to transform early learning, sponsored by the County of San Mateo, the San Mateo County Office of Education, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The Big Lift supports high quality learning experiences from preschool to third grade. The four pillars of change incorporated into The Big Lift are High Quality Preschool, Consistent Attendance Initiatives, Family Engagement, and Inspiring Summers. More than 300 organizations have committed support to The Big Lift, and more than $30M in initial funding has been raised in support of The Big Lift programs.

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 students in public schools across the country through summer and after-school academic and enrichment programs. BELL expands out-of-school time education to close the achievement gap among underserved children through partnerships with school districts, community-based organizations, and other youth-serving organizations. Visit http://www.experiencebell.org/for more information.

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