SCUSD expands summer learning for kids despite cuts
‘Summer of Service’ helps stop ‘brain drain’ that disproportionately affects urban kids
May 30, 2012 (Sacramento): Despite deep state funding cuts that have forced the near elimination of traditional summer school, Sacramento City Unified School District is expanding its innovative “Summer of Service” program for teens.
“Summer of Service” combines community service and project-based learning with a traditional “bridge” program aimed at easing the sometimes scary transition to middle and high school. Last year, about 800 SCUSD kids participated in the program. This year, the goal is to enroll 1,000, said SCUSD Superintendent Jonathan Raymond.
“We are absolutely committed to preventing the kind of summer learning loss that puts urban kids behind their peers when school starts again in September,” Superintendent Raymond said. “Our students deserve every academic advantage we can give them.”
According to the National Summer Learning Association (www.summerlearning.org), all students lose some math skills over the summer, but those from low-income homes lose math, reading and spelling skills at a disproportionate rate. Summer learning loss widens the achievement gap between rich and poor students, the association’s research shows.
Sacramento City Unified is a high-poverty district: About 70 percent of SCUSD’s 44,000 students come from homes that qualify for the federal lunch program, which means the household income is less than $35,000 annually for a single parent with two kids. Kids who live in impoverished homes are much less likely to spend summer days engaged in constructive, supervised learning activities, according to numerous studies.
“We need to dispense with romanticized notions associated with the traditional summer break, look at what’s really going on and consider the consequences,” said Duke University Professor Harris Cooper in a recently published interview. “Lots of kids get bored over the summer.”
During the six weeks of “Summer of Service,” incoming seventh, eighth and ninth graders – many of them identified as at-risk for dropping out – engage with teammates and adult supervisors to identify a problem in their community and design and implement a community service project to address it. Last year, those projects ranged from tutoring younger students to installing gardens and assisting the elderly.
The program is held at the campuses students will be transitioning to in the fall, giving them the extra advantage of making friends and connecting with adults before the new school year starts.
Funding for “Summer of Service” comes from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation; the federal 21st Century grant; James Irvine Foundation Linked Learning funding; and Title 1 dollars for low-income students.
“We see summer learning as a necessity, not a luxury,” said Superintendent Raymond. “We have to make summer learning a priority or doom our kids to a cycle of falling behind, which is very difficult to break.”
Students interested in signing up for “Summer of Service” must submit an application. More information can be found at www.summeratSCUSD.org.