On June 27th, BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) and Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Public Schools launched summer learning programs for up to 2,000 students. This marks the third year that the nonprofit and school district partnered to expand learning time and boost student achievement. The partnership’s stated goal is to help at-risk students succeed by gaining new academic skills, boosting their self-confidence, and improving their social skills.
This summer, approximately 1,500 scholars are participating in BELL’s new READy Scholars model, which focuses on boosting the grade-level reading skills of underperforming 3rd and 4th graders. The model was designed to help students and schools attain the goals for third grade proficiency established by North Carolina’s new Read to Achieve legislation.
“The premise of North Carolina’s Read to Achieve legislation is one that we all believe in… that all children should be on grade level in reading by third grade,” stated Jerri Haigler, BELL’s Executive Director for the Carolinas. “At BELL, our goal is to transform the academic achievement, self confidence and life trajectories of students who historically have not had access to quality academic programs during out-of-school time. Thanks to a strong partnership with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Public Schools and the generosity of local donors, more than 2,000 scholars will expand their learning opportunities this summer, and combat the summer learning loss that continues to plague our most at-risk children.”
The READy Scholars program operates at 10 schools for 6.5 hours per day, 4 days per week, for 6 weeks. Each morning, scholars rotate through a series of reading stations, including small-group instruction, independent and collaborative reading, literacy-building games, and a blended learning station with interactive reading technologies. Afternoons are filled with field trips and enrichment courses like sports, STEM, and the arts that integrate literacy-building activities and provide opportunities for scholars to apply their reading skills.
At two middle schools, another 500 students in grades 6-8 are participating in the BELL Summer model, which blends reading and math instruction with enrichment, community engagement, and field trips. The program focuses on helping students avoid summer learning loss, gain new skills, and prepare for high school.
Each model trains and employs teachers and teaching assistants, who deliver Common Core-aligned curriculum and assessments in a small-group learning environment. Scholars are grouped according to their reading levels, and teachers use assessment data to hone in on scholars’ specific learning needs.
Data from the previous two summers show that the partnership is working. Last summer, data from computer adaptive assessments showed that participating students gained the equivalent of 15% of a grade level in reading and 11% in math. Students who started the summer below grade level – the majority of students enrolled in the program – achieved the highest gains: 21% of a grade level in reading and 24% in math.
Demetria, whose son Trevor participated in BELL Summer at the Mineral Springs Middle School last year, is thankful for the free summer learning opportunity for her son. “Trevor has benefited greatly from this program last year with improved grades this year,” she says. “I’d like for his academic momentum to continue, which the BELL program has helped provide.”
BELL and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools are sharing program costs. The school district is contributing part of the funding required to pay for teachers, curriculum, supplies, and other program expenses, while BELL is raising philanthropic funds from local and national foundations, corporations, and individuals. The Reynolds America Foundation pledged $560,000 over three years to support the partnership, and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust made a $200,000 grant and The Winston-Salem Foundation a $50,000 grant for this summer’s programs. Supporting BELL’s summer programs nationally include Target and The Wallace Foundation.
You can learn more, including about how to donate and help out HERE.