Students participating in a coalition of Boston’s summer programs this year recorded steady upward progress in improving critical skills essential for college and career success, even as the numbers of students participating and the number of unique programs throughout the city ballooned, a new analysis finds. On October 22, over 120 partners from the Boston Summer Learning Community, including city and district officials, non-profit leaders, funders, and new prospective organizations, gathered at Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology to discuss these promising data findings from summer 2015.
A Boston After School & Beyond analysis shows a significant increase in skills among more than 5,600 Boston children in 79 summer programs in 2015. The results point to gains in skills, such as critical thinking, perseverance, and relationships with peers and adults. Thirty percent of the students in the evaluation were classified as English language learners, 52 percent are male, and they attend 128 Boston Public Schools.
For the full report of summer 2015 data trends, please see below.
As Mayor Martin J. Walsh challenges program leaders to vastly increase the number of summer program slots available to 10,000 by 2017, the data show programs met or exceeded benchmarks in all 15 performance categories and improved in areas most associated with student growth, including offering stimulating and engaging activities.
“We are pleased to see our continued investment is paying off, as we drive toward the Mayor’s goal of expanding high quality summer learning,” said Rahn Dorsey, Boston’s Chief of Education. “These results give us the guidance we need to constantly improve our efforts for kids in the critical time they spend outside the classroom.”
More than 5,600 Boston children participated in city summer learning programs, marking the single greatest expansion in the initiative’s six year history. Students enrolled in 79 summer learning programs in diverse, non-traditional settings around the city as part of the Boston Summer Learning Community, a coordinated public-private effort boosted by nearly $2 million in private funding. Last year, the initiative served 3,500 city students in 58 programs.
All programs used the same set of measurement tools to assess program quality and student skill development from multiple perspectives. Trained observers and students themselves evaluated programs on factors such as structure, support and engagement. Four power skills—critical thinking, perseverance, self-regulation, relationships with peers—serve as the foundation of year-round trainings and peer learning between district teachers and community educators.
“Armed with evidence on the academic benefits of summer learning, we are focusing on the skills necessary for navigating school, college, and the workplace,” said Chris Smith, Executive Director of Boston After School & Beyond. “These data show us that our work is having an impact—a real, measurable impact that we see only getting better over time and as we grow.”
On a youth survey, 83 percent of participating students reported improvements in academic motivation, 81 percent reported improvements in learning interest, and 75 percent reported increased critical thinking, perseverance, and peer relationships.
Only 47 percent of students reported improvements in self-regulation or emotion control, though results show that this was one of the most commonly reported strengths among students at the start of the summer. Teacher observations mirrored these positive upward trends. Program staff observed statistically significant improvements in comparable skills at the end of the program, as compared to baseline metrics.
Despite these positive indicators, youth surveys illuminate areas for improvement. Data show that summer programs have room for improvement in offering opportunities for youth choice and autonomy, youth leadership, and promoting higher-order thinking.
To download the full data presentation, please click here.