Mayor Walsh, community leaders, unveil new national summer learning research
November 2, 2016
BOSTON - Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - Mayor Martin J. Walsh today unveiled the results of a national survey which showed Boston's summer learning effort outpacing its peers - data the Mayor used to renew calls for greater public and private investment in critical summer programs.
Surrounded by leaders from 127 summer learning programs at the historic YMCA on Huntington Avenue, Mayor Walsh showcased results from the 2016 Boston Summer Learning Community, which reached 10,084 Boston school children in 2016 with an average attendance rate of 85 percent.
Additionally, a new national report from RAND, which includes Boston, shows that high attending students outperformed the control group in math, and these benefits persisted through the school year. After a second summer, high attenders outperformed the control group in math and reading, both in the fall and in the following spring.
"The Boston Summer Learning Community is an asset for our families and our schools," said Mayor Walsh. "The value of this programming goes far beyond better grades. It creates safe spaces for children to explore their interests, build confidence and practice real-world skills, which is why I look forward to taking our city's summer learning program to the next level."
The academic advantage for students with high attendance after the second summer is substantial, representing between 20 percent and 25 percent of typical annual gains in mathematics and reading.
"Summer is the fifth quarter of the school year," said Superintendent Tommy Chang. "Students from these programs are now learning new material in school and not just catching up on last year's lessons."
The summer network features a wide array of enrichment activities, from boat building to entrepreneurship, and a focus on social-emotional skills, like perseverance and critical thinking. Teachers rated high attenders more highly on these skills than the control group students.
"By engaging students based on their interests, we can increase attendance and provide real world context and practice for developing skills," said Chris Smith, executive director of Boston After School & Beyond, the city's lead partner on after-school and summer learning efforts.
Boston is one of five cities participating in the $50 million National Summer Learning Project, funded by The Wallace Foundation and evaluated by RAND. The report, Learning from Summer: Effects of Voluntary Summer Learning Programs on Low-Income Urban Youth, explains the impact of programs in summers 2013 and 2014. The other cities include Dallas, Duval County (FL), Pittsburgh, and Rochester (NY).
"The strong results from the national study, and the commitment of so many programs, are evidence that we can make high quality summer learning the norm for low-income students," said James Morton, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Boston. "We need effective public policy to get there."
According to the study, Boston had a greater share of students who were high attenders than the five-city average, reaching 73 percent in year one and 67 percent in year two, compared to 63 percent and 60 percent nationally.
Local data collected across all 127 summer programs reinforce these national findings. On average, the 2016 Boston Summer Learning Community met or exceeded the research-based benchmark in all aspects of program performance, including program organization, supportive environment, and student engagement.
The value of this programming goes far beyond better grades. It creates safe spaces for children to explore their interests, build confidence and practice real-world skills
Both teachers and students reported significant improvements in all measured social-emotional skills at the end of programming. Most notably, 83 percent of youth reported improvements in academic motivation; 81 percent in learning interest; and 75 percent in critical thinking, perseverance, and empathy.