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Boston Launches 5th Quarter of Learning

Partnership will use City as a classroom for enriched summer experience for BPS students

BOSTON - Wednesday, June 14, 2017 - Mayor Martin J. Walsh joined Boston Public Schools (BPS) and community leaders today to launch the "5th Quarter of Learning," building on Boston's groundbreaking public-private summer learning initiative in an effort to ensure more students than ever before gain access to the area's rich tapestry of natural, cultural, and higher education resources.

The enhanced initiative, unveiled today by Mayor Walsh and BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang, will engage 2,200 high-need students in an innovative approach that blends rigorous academic learning with hands-on enrichment. Students, for example, can engage in sailing, archery, salsa dancing, and tennis while building critical thinking, perseverance, and teamwork skills. An additional 10,000 Boston students will enroll in a network of 110 summer learning programs, all focused on the same measures of program performance and skill development.   

"A student's education shouldn't stop at the end of the school year when the '4th quarter' of learning closes," said Mayor Walsh. "To make sure our students don't fall behind, they must learn year-round. This summer, Boston is looking to become a national leader with an innovative '5th Quarter' approach that inspires real-world learning. This is a groundbreaking effort, backed in solid research and with many of Boston's greatest partners on board, to help ensure its success for Boston students and families."

Based on recent national research from RAND showing the significant academic benefits of this approach, BPS is re-envisioning traditional summer school by allocating $2 million, which includes funds from Boston After School & Beyond, to support 31 school and community sites selected through a competitive process.

The city will serve as a classroom for students as they engage in academic content with BPS teachers in enriching settings such as Zoo New England, Hale Reservation, Courageous Sailing, the New England Aquarium, Simmons College, and Thompson Island.

"Blending enrichment such as arts, sailing, outdoor science and oceanic expeditions through our 5th Quarter initiative brings learning alive for students year-round," said Superintendent Chang. "We know that when rigorous learning is engaging, it goes a long way toward closing opportunity and achievement gaps. This summer programming opens doors for students to explore a world beyond their own and realize the possibilities that are within their reach."

"Rigor and engagement go hand in hand," said Chris Smith, executive director of Boston After School & Beyond, which helps fund and manage the citywide initiative with the City and school district. "When we engage young people in stimulating settings, they can develop and practice the skills they will need to succeed in college, career and life."

A wide body of research shows that, on average, students lose knowledge and skills over the summer months, and that this phenomenon - known as "summer slide" - has a disproportionate, cumulative effect on low-income youth. BPS and Boston After School & Beyond developed the 5th Quarter with local programs, schools, and funders to reverse this trend.

"We are so grateful to have these types of innovative learning opportunities for our students," said Jason Gallagher, principal of the Harvard-Kent Elementary School in Charlestown, which collaborates with Courageous Sailing and Massachusetts General Hospital on summer programs. "Many of our partners are right here in our own backyard. It's wonderful to be a part of a true community effort to provide our students with the best possible interactive learning experiences over the summer."

A national study based on a randomized controlled trial, conducted by RAND and funded by The Wallace Foundation in Boston and four other cities, revealed that students who had at least 80 percent attendance in academic summer programs outperformed the control group in math and reading on fall tests and on the subsequent spring MCAS exams. Participating students also gained an advantage in social and emotional skills in the fall after the second summer.

"The 5th Quarter enables us to engage young people who need the most help," said Alexandra Oliver Dávila, a Boston School Committee member and executive director of Sociedad Latina, a Mission Hill nonprofit that serves predominantly Latino students. "After five weeks, many students become leaders who approach learning with new purpose."

Representative Alice Peisch filed House bill 2868 to expand Boston's 5th Quarter approach statewide, with cities and local partners sharing in the cost. The Joint Committee on Education reported out the bill favorably to the House Committee on Ways and Means in May.

The 5th Quarter grew out of the Boston Summer Learning Project, which was launched in 2010 by Boston After School & Beyond and the Boston Public Schools, with support from the Boston Opportunity Agenda, and raised over $10 million to develop, research, and scale the model.

Boston families still seeking programming for summer 2017 are encouraged to visit for a full listing of school and community summer programs.


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