School’s almost out, make sure learning isn’t

It’s June, and many students around the country are really, really ready to be done with school. Unfortunately, for many kids who don’t have access to safe, fun, and enriching summer programs, summer means losing important ground gained during the school year and starting September farther behind.1 Luckily, there are many ways donors can help.

All kids need high-quality, engaging learning time in order to succeed. Low-income kids, especially, need access to more quality learning time both in and out of school. Last month, the Ford Foundation,2 in collaboration with the National Center for Time and Learning as well prominent educators and political leaders, launched Time to Succeed, an effort to raise awareness and resources for efforts to expand quality learning time for low-income kids.

The focus of Time to Succeed is on expanding high-quality learning time during the school day and year. As the Center noted in our guide on improving teaching quality, many successful whole school reform models serving low-income kids already expand the school day and sometimes the school year. Several districts (Chicago, for instance) are also looking to expand learning time. Cost is of course a huge issue, but innovative models for expanding time using existing or modest extra resources exist (for example, we profiled the Generation Schools model, which does just that). As a complement to school-based efforts, donors can also support high-quality, after-school programs that partner with schools serving low-income children, and expand quality learning time that way. One such program is Citizen Schools, which the Center profiled in Pathways to Student Success.

And then there is summer. Donors can support multiple summer programs that have been developed to make sure student learning gains aren’t lost over the summer, but made. Examples include Summer Search, summer programs sponsored through the Breakthrough Collaborative and the newly developed Springboard Collaborative model. Such programs work to motivate students, build on existing skills, and give low-income kids a leg up into the next school year, high school, and eventually college and the workplace.

Student learning is always in season. Here’s to donors making an impact all year round.

Making Summer Count:  How Summer Programs Can Boost Children’s Learning. RAND Corporation 2011

The Ford Foundation was the Center’s partner in developing our guidance for High Impact Philanthropy to Improve Teaching Quality.