Preventing Summer Learning Loss A study by Karl Alexander at Johns Hopkins University concluded that while students made similar progress during the school year regardless of economic status, students with educational summer programs held steady or continued to advance during the summer, while students without such programs (largely low-income students) fell back. By the end of grammar school, low-income students had fallen nearly three grade levels behind. By ninth grade, roughly two thirds of the learning gap separating income groups can be attributed to summer learning loss.
Third grade reading levels are a key indicator of a child’s long-term potential for success in school, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Early Warning report. Unfortunately, in 2010, 43% of Massachusetts students scored below proficiency level on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test.
Intensive Early Support Beyond the School Day The solution extends beyond school and starts before children even enter kindergarten. Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success, a report issued by Harvard University in June 2010, recommends that to improve literacy outcomes, Massachusetts will have to bring “language-rich, rigorous and engaging reading curricula into early education and care settings,” and “expand and strengthen work with families across learning settings and within communities.”
BOSTnet, with our partners, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, WestMost, and Family Services of Central Mass has been working in 7 communities across Massachusetts since summer 2010. The collaborative has implemented an innovative model to stem summer learning loss with promising results.
Our results have shown that 72% of children in BOSTnet's project maintained or increased their reading levels over just 10 weeks! Our young readers in Kindergarten through 3rd grade are the participants in the 21 participating programs.
Our project model, in which public school teachers from the participating districts of Lynn, Lowell, Lawrence and Boston, serve as Literacy Coaches in the out-of-school programs, has had many positive outcomes for students and staff alike. Literacy Coaches have helped program staff build confidence to incorporate effective and fun reading, writing and learning activities into everyday programming. As a result of having the Literacy Coaches on site, the OST program staff reported improved staff capacity to implement summer literacy activities, and planned to continue the literacy activities through the year. In turn, The Literacy Coaches gained valuable insight into the innovative atmosphere of after school and summer programs - these public school teachers spoke of a new appreciation for OST leaders, their strong relationships with the children, their emphasis on fun, and expressed a desire to bring these qualities back to their teaching roles!
Through our Summer Literacy Collaborative, BOSTnet hires public school teachers to serve as coaches in OST programs in low-income communities, building sustainable literacy learning supports and reversing summer learning loss, while simultaneously teaching OST staff the necessary skills and expertise to be effective teachers in the OST environment. The program supports education as well as broader social and emotional development goals, strengthens family literacy through our foundational family engagement work, and builds strong connections between schools and OST programs. We are currently operating this initiative in 16 programs located in Lynn, Lowell, Lawrence, and Boston. Our results so far are tremendously exciting: 85% of children in our partner programs avoided the typical summer learning loss!