By John Lynds
According to Boston After School and Beyond studies (BAS&B), research shows that up to two-thirds of the achievement gap between low-income students and their higher-income peers can be explained by unequal access to summer opportunities. Recognizing this issue, BAS&B has teamed up with Boston Public Schools and community based providers to expand access to high-quality summer learning programming.
At the Harborside Community Center’s summer camps run out of the Mario Umana Academy, Eastie children that attend summer camp at non-profits such as the East Boston YMCA and the America SCORES soccer program are getting another level of educational enrichment through public and private funding provided by BAS&B and BPS.
The Summer Learning Program at the Harborside puts children not only in a traditional summer camp setting but adds math, reading and other enrichment activities taught by certified teachers.
“There are over 11,000 kids in 133 programs,” said BAS&B Executive Director Christopher Smith. “The programs are focused on perseverance, critical thinking and teamwork. A subset of these programs is the programs you find here (at the Harborside).”
Smith said his agency’s data has shown that kids in low-income areas tend to lose ground over the summer months.
“This lost ground is cumulative, so by freshman year in high school, these kids can fall far behind,” he said. “We have seen that high attenders in this program, by the second summer, their reading and math skills persist all the way through to the spring MCAS tests. That is pretty powerful for a five week program.”
This is the first year BPS is helping to fund the program and 33 of the 133 sites are funded directly through BPS.
“The YMCA and American SCORES represents two of these BPS funded programs,” said Smith.
The YMCA of Greater Boston has been partnering with the program for seven years in places like Canton and expanded the program to Boston this year.
The two sites at the Harborside are being co-managed by BAS&B and BPS, and draw on the strengths of teachers and leading program providers to provide a full-day, integrated learning experience. Each program employs a different mix of time, location, enrichment, and staffing based on the specific needs and interests of their students. All are focused on the common goals of academic progress in math and language arts, and improvement in standardized testing.
“The goals around this program really are to reverse summer learning loss and develop the skills for school, college and life,” said Smith. “We also want to deepen school relationships, so in the future, this program just becomes and extension of the regular school year.”
Rep. Adrian Madaro, who toured the program last Thursday applauded BAS&B and BPS’s work, as well as their partners, the YMCA and SCORES.
“Youth issues are a priority for me,” said Madaro. “We are always talking about getting youth engaged in productive experiences in the summer, but often times, it doesn’t tackle the summer learning-loss piece. It’s more focused on getting kids a summer job or into a summer camp or a summer athletic program. This program, however, really fills a gap in what we are trying to do to keeps kids engaged in positive life experiences in the summer.”