Throughout California, school district leaders are using their newfound flexibility under LCFF to put summer to work in ways that serve equity goals. Their summer learning programs take many shapes and involve creative partnerships customized to meet local needs and circumstances.
The most promising programs offer powerful and enriching experiences to young people who need those experiences most. They blend learning and laughing, academics and engagement, purposefulness and plain
old fun. They require planning, resources, and creativity. And they work.
There’s no doubt that budget cuts have had a tremendous impact on the availability of summer learning programs throughout California. But with a little creativity and a lot of dedication, some communities have managed to overcome the obstacles and create effective programs that are engaging students, expanding in size and scope, and demonstrating positive outcomes.
What could happen when students are engaged with just-right, high-interest books over the summer months? At Orange County Public Schools (FL), a six-week summer reading academy increase average Lexile scores by 44%. In the summer of 2015, South Berwyn, Illinois, a district where 100% of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch and 90% are English language learners, defied the odds and not only avoided summer slide but experienced a significant increase in reading proficiency.
There is increasing global attention to the growing field of brain research, but what are we learning today that may inform programs that serve children? How do environment and life experiences impact brain development? What can be done to mitigate the negative effects of trauma on the brain? As our knowledge of the brain grows, so too does the opportunity to use this information to actively shape programs, practices, and policies that promote the well-being of children and youth.
Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) partners with a number of community-based organizations (CBOs) to serve more than 6,500 students. Through the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth (OFCY), the city provides funding to CBOs to serve more than 2,400 students, many in partnership with OUSD programming. Still more students are served by Oakland Parks and Recreation, city libraries, and community based organizations operating alongside this system. With such great diversity of programs, funding, and partnerships, there is a need for coordination and collaboration to ensure as many young people as possible are provided with high-quality summer learning opportunities.