Post submitted by Mary-Ellen Phelps Deily, Education Week reporter and author of the Beyond Schools blog.
You hear it again and again. When school lets out for the summer, some children thrive and others fall behind. Research has found that far too many poor children lose significant ground in terms of learning over the summer months and that summer time is not on their side.
"Time is so precious," Cincinnati Superintendent of Schools Mary Ronan said in an interview on Monday. "We realized that our youngsters in our lowest-performing schools needed additional time on task."
And so, Ronan and her colleagues in the 34,000-student district launched Fifth Quarter last year, providing an additional month of learning and enrichment for children in struggling elementary schools in the city. For her efforts, Ronan was one of five 2010 Champions of Summer Learning honored by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) this week.
The Fifth Quarter offers free, full-day academic and enrichment programs for students in 16 elementary schools. Mornings are devoted to academics and afternoons to field trips, art programs, and other enrichment activities run by organizations partnering with the Cincinnati schools. The district has opted to use $3.6 million in federal stimulus funding to extend the program for three years.
Earlier this month, the NSLA recognized Cincinnati's efforts as an example of the kind of new and innovative approach to summer learning that the association hopes more schools and districts will adopt. All of the Champions embrace the NSLA view that summer learning should go beyond traditional remedial approaches.
In addition to Ronan, the other Champions are:
- NASA administrator Charles Bolden, who has spearheaded the three-year, $10 million NASA Summer of Innovation project, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning for middle school students.
- Former Houston Mayor Bill White (now the Democratic candidate for governor of Texas) for his dedication to Houston's Summer Opportunity Sessions, which offer a four-week summer math and science enrichment program aligned to national standards. The NSLA says White is making summer learning "an important component of his gubernatorial campaign."
- State Senator Mark DeSaulnier of California, a Democrat who has been a leader on summer learning issues in the state legislature and chairs the California Legislative Task Force on Summer & Intersession Enrichment.
- Jacksonville, Fla., Mayor John Peyton, a Republican who launched an anticrime initiative called the Jacksonville Journey, which supports summer camps and summer job programs for at-risk youths, among other efforts. The NSLA reports that Jacksonville will serve a total of 5,725 children in full-day, six-week, low-cost summer camps this year.
"The actions of the 2010 Summer Learning Champions speak volumes about their commitment to youth and the ability of summer learning programs to help close the achievement gap in this country," says Ron Fairchild, the CEO of NSLA, in a news release.