The second of a three-part series on summer learning.


Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children


Summer is a great time to learn.

But as we blogged last week, summer learning loss — all the things that students forget when they are not in school — can help fuel the achievement gap.

A National Summer Learning Association report says that high-quality programs can address learning loss, but only “about one-third of young people nationally are enrolled in a summer learning program.”

Fortunately, in Massachusetts, cities are closing the summertime gap in creative ways.

Action at the city level is crucial according to a 2016 report on a workshop’s proceedings. Published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the report notes: 

“Cities have a unique role to play in the afterschool and summer space, said Bela Shah Spooner, program manager for expanded learning at the National League of Cities.” In addition, cities can draw on “libraries, parks and recreation departments, museums, and police and fire departments.” Cities can also promote the visibility of programs, improve program quality, collect and share data, do public outreach, and convene partners and funders.

A lot of this work is happening in Worcester, where summer learning has widespread support.

Every Wednesday this summer, for example, the Worcester Public Schools offers students summer reading help at the public library.

There’s also the Worcester Summer Literacy Initiative, which hires elementary school teachers who work as literacy coaches at camps and other summer programs where they help embed reading into these programs’ activities.

The literacy initiative was: “Originally designed by a consortium of Massachusetts United Ways (Central MA, Massachusetts Bay and Pioneer Valley),” and it “consistently achieves outstanding results, with approximately 75% of participating children maintaining or actually gaining skill,” Chris O’Keefe, program vice president at the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, wrote in a recent blog.

The Worcester Regional Transit Authority helps out by providing bus passes so older children and youth can get to these reading-enriched summer program.

Thanks to this sweeping effort, the program serves more than 500 kids.





Given its size, it’s no surprise that Boston has a lot of summertime programs.

“The 2018 Boston Summer Learning Community will reach a projected 12,941 students across 144 program sites operated by 70 youth-serving organizations across the city,” according to Boston After School and Beyond, a local nonprofit. An interactive map of these programs is posted here.

One notable program is Summer Early Focus. It’s a five-week program designed by the Boston Public Schools’ Department of Early Childhood and run by a number of community partners.

As Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said last year in a Boston Globe article about how the city was revamping summer school, “A student’s education shouldn’t stop at the end of the school year when the fourth quarter of learning closes.” Boston calls its summer program the fifth quarter.

This new approach is project-based and student-driven.

At the kindergarten level, incoming students “are exploring ocean and seashore animals native to Massachusetts,” the program’s website explains. “This curriculum will help prepare students for kindergarten in the fall through exposure to the structure of the day, literacy, math, and center-based activities.”

Want details? Boston has posted its K1 summer curriculum here. The math folder, in particular, has a great deal of information.

Rising first graders study “insects and habitats through a specific selection of the Focus on K2 curriculum designed for summer learning. In learning about bees and butterflies, they will think about the important role each plays in our environment and lives.” Information for this unit is posted here.

Boston has high expectations for itself. As Mayor Walsh said: “To make sure our students don’t fall behind, they must learn year-round.”




For more information on how cities are promoting summer learning, check out these resources:

• National League of Cities’ Summer Learning website

• National League of Cities’ report on after school and summer learning as workforce development strategies

MassInc’s article on a bill in the Massachusetts State House filed by Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) that would create more access to high-quality summer learning programs in school districts with high concentrations of low-income students.

For ideas on launching a summer learning strategy, there’s the Wallace Foundation’s Summer Learning Recruitment Guide.

And be sure to use your personal and social media networks to share the idea that summer learning is a key ingredient in children’s academic and life-long success.