Summer: An Opportunity to Make a Dent in the Achievement Gap
With the end of school, and the launch yesterday of Recreation Worcester’s program, the summer learning season is upon us. That’s right – the learning season. This is a big deal for the families and children of Worcester, and doing something about it is our shared concern.
Kids and families work hard throughout the school year and most of our students achieve steady growth in literacy and math. But during the summer, many students lose ground. Families that can enroll their kids in enrichment programs generally stave off the “summer slide.” But too many low-income children don’t have this chance. Despite the gains they make during the school year, they lose TWO TO THREE MONTHS of learning progress during the summer. The effects are cumulative, causing these kids to fall behind by up to three years by 5th grade, and contribute to serious problems by the time a student enters high school. The slide is very difficult to reverse once it starts. This infographic explains it at a glance. To see just how dramatic the effect is, look here.
We in Worcester are doing something about it. Since the summer of 2015, GWCF has partnered with United Way of Central Mass and Family Service of Central Mass to expand the reach of the Worcester Summer Literacy Initiative, to reduce and even eliminate learning loss for almost all the kids who participate. Look here for more from our Fall 2015 newsletter and follow this link for the formal evaluation of the program. Last summer the program reached over 560 kids, and this year we expect to serve over 750.
Other funded programs are worth touting, too. For instance, a unique partnership by Bancroft School with Elm Park Community School serves 135 children (look here for a video profile).
There are an estimated 4,000 low-income children attending Worcester Public Schools -- the group that’s most at risk, but also known to benefit the most. We estimate that this year we’ll be reaching approximately 20% of this group with quality programs.
We’re not the only ones in the fight. Thanks to longstanding institutions such as the Worcester Public Library, Pernet Family Health, Friendly House, and other nonprofits, the community is actively engaged in more summer reading programs. Perhaps the biggest news of the season is the literacy component offered by the City through Recreation Worcester. Using a curriculum developed by the Worcester Education Collaborative, and acting in close partnership with the Worcester Summer Literacy Initiative and WPS, Rec Worcester will be incorporating summer learning into its entire program. They expect to reach 1400 kids, including an intensive pilot at three sites with trained literacy coaches.
It’s going to be quite a summer!