Boston Summer Learning Reaches Record High Student Participation in 10th Year

BOSTON – On Monday, May 20th Mayor Walsh, incoming Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, school officials, and community partners gathered at Zoo New England to launch the 2019 5th Quarter of Learning, Boston’s nation-leading summer learning model that will reach over 14,000 students this summer. Capping 10 years of innovation and growth in 2019, this public-private partnership continues to close opportunity and achievement gaps for more Boston students each year.

“Learning shouldn’t stop when the school year does, and that’s why through this initiative we’re providing opportunities for students to continue their education over the summer,” said Mayor Walsh.  “I am proud that Boston continues to lead the way in providing more opportunities for young people to learn and grow year-round.”

The Franklin Park Zoo was a fitting setting to celebrate this milestone, as 30 elementary school students will spend 5 weeks there applying math and science lessons to the real world, making the Zoo their classroom for the summer.

“The Zoo – and so many other places like it – are extending the lessons from the classroom to the community this summer,” said Dr. Charles Grandson, Chief Academic Officer for the Boston Public Schools.  “Because of the 5th Quarter, thousands of Boston students no longer have to choose between learning and fun.  In fact, by integrating academics and enrichment, teachers and their program partners are showing that learning is fun.”

In addition to learning at the Zoo, students in the 5th Quarter will engage in hands-on activities in enriching settings like Courageous Sailing, Simmons College, MassArt, and Harlem Lacrosse. Providing opportunities to learn new skills in new situations, the 5th Quarter helps students build key life readiness skills, like critical thinking, perseverance, and collaboration, in addition to academic content.

“From tennis to lacrosse, sailing to boating, entrepreneurship to workplace experiences, to exploring the Zoo, all of these together represent the power and promise of summer learning,” said Chris Smith, Executive Director of Boston After School & Beyond.

Students from Chittick Elementary School in Hyde Park and Harvard-Kent Elementary School in Charlestown also joined in the celebration, interacting with some of the Zoo’s smaller inhabitants alongside Mayor Walsh and their teachers.

“The 5th Quarter allows our students to build upon what they’ve learned in the school year, and continue to apply and activate that learning in new ways,” said Michelle Burnett, Principal of Chittick Elementary School. “When the school year comes around, we see these students come back with a willingness and a mindset toward learning.”

Research has shown that a substantial portion of the achievement gap between low-income students and their higher-income peers can be explained by unequal access to high quality summer learning opportunities.  The RAND Corporation and the Wallace Foundation indicated that this summer learning model, in which students engage in academics and enrichment with BPS teachers and program staff, provides high attending students with statistically significant advantages in math and English Language Arts that persist throughout the entire school year.

The 5th Quarter was launched in 2010, reaching 232 students through 5 school-community partnerships.  Fueled by private philanthropy and increasing investments from the Boston Public Schools, over the past 10 years the initiative has scaled to reach a projected 14,000 students through 160 programs in summer 2019.  Through these strong public-private partnerships, the 5th Quarter has transitioned the traditional summer school model to a citywide summer learning system.

“The philanthropy that goes on in this city, it’s just remarkable not only what individual foundations and corporate funders do, but how we work together and share the credit,” stated Paul Grogan, President & CEO of The Boston Foundation.

The Boston Public Schools are investing $3.2 million to support 69 school and community programs, expecting to activate learning for 6,500 students including those experiencing homelessness, English Learners, and students off-track to graduate.

“There are things in the schools that we can work on, but there are so many ways that we can partner with the community to really wrap around children in systems of families and communities, and this is just such a great opportunity to demonstrate already the things that are working within Boston,” incoming Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said.

Boston’s summer learning efforts have taken hold across the state, with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently allocating more than $500,000 to extend summer learning to 19 communities across the state.  This funding will support the development and expansion of high quality programming for approximately 2,200 students this summer.

“Boston’s summer learning partners have transformed a good idea into public policy, enabling more students to have the kind of enriching summers that will equip them to succeed in school and beyond,” said Chris Smith.

Mayor Walsh emphasized the need for more summer learning support in the future.  “We want all kids in Boston and Massachusetts to have access to these kinds of opportunities,” he stated.  “We see the benefits of this program here in Boston. We need more partners to get involved.  I invite the business community, higher education, and philanthropy to help us ensure that every child has access to high quality learning all year round.”