Story on Summer Programs Out Today

By Nora Fleming — July 11, 2011 2 min read
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My story on summer programs is up on our homepage today. (It’s in the print issue of our paper this week, too.) It takes a look at four cities that have managed to maintain, enhance, and increase summer programs when many others are slashing them given budget shortfalls.

The four cities—Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans, and Oakland, Calif.—have made building programs in the summer months a priority to counteract the effects of “summer learning loss,” which is particularly harmful to low-income students.

While the stories and programs are all different, they have some commonalities: strong partnerships with local organizations and community providers, use of blended funding sources, and development of creative programming to meet the diverse needs of their populations. All also may have to be innovative with their programs moving forward, as some funding used to fuel these programs is drying up.

Read about Baltimore’s summer program, which, among other objectives, is striving to help middle school students who perform poorly in math through innovative, project-based learning activities. This year the program is dubbed the Grand Prix of Summer Learning in honor of the IndyCar race hitting the city in September and the soapbox cars the kids will apply their mathematical skills to build and race in August.

The country’s third-largest school district, Chicago, is serving 95,000 students this summer and providing a number of new offerings that move away from the traditional “drill and kill” of summer school. Its programs are available both to students who are performing proficiently and those who are struggling academically. High school mentors are working in several of them to support younger students.

This is the first summer in a long time (or maybe ever) that kids in New Orleans will have a variety of options available to them, due to a newly independent city parks and recreation commission. More than 4,000 children under 12 and 3,000-plus teens will be served in city-supported programs; another 2,000 are in noncity-funded programs. Last summer, only about 1,000 kids under 12 were served, and there were no teen programs.

Across the country in Oakland, the school district is serving at least 6,000 students this summer. Oakland is a rarity in California; district officials told me few of their neighbors attempted summer programming at all, let alone to the level they’ve undertaken, given the state’s budget woes. Still, summer may be gaining some traction in the state: Look for an upcoming blog item that discusses a state legislative task force that is making recommendations to the governor and legislature on how California can use funding and other resources to make summer programs a priority.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Beyond School blog.