On March 16, legislators and education leaders convened at the State House to discuss a proposal to expand summer learning opportunities to youth throughout the Commonwealth. Sponsored by Chairwoman Alice Peisch of the Joint Committee on Education, An Act to increase access to high quality summer learning opportunities (HB.2868) would establish a grant program to fund academic and enrichment-based summer learning programs in high-needs districts.
The briefing began with an overview of research findings from the largest study to date on summer learning. Commissioned by the Wallace Foundation and studied by RAND, the latest report Learning from Fall found that students who attend summer learning programs at high rates see a significant advantage in math, English language arts, and social-emotional skills — comparable to 20-25% of what students learn in a typical school year.
Research such as this motivates the use of summer learning as a way to narrow the opportunity and achievement gaps that exist between low-income students and their higher-income peers. Education leaders throughout the state have seen the importance of summer learning in improving student outcomes, and have come out in support of the bill.
“New Bedford is in the midst of a comprehensive initiative to reform its public schools, so the expansion of high-quality learning programs made possible under this measure would provide a major boost to our local reform efforts.” – New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell
“The City of Salem is ready and willing to leverage local resources to connect more of our young people to high-quality summer learning opportunities… This bill could change that dynamic and leverage untapped community resources in a way we haven’t seen before.” – Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll
“We have to pay attention to the summer months if our kids are going to reach their full potential. This bill will expand Rec Worcester’s partnerships and help keep kids safe and learning all year round.” – Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus
Headmaster Lindsa McIntyre from the Jeremiah E. Burke High School testified to the importance of summer opportunities for her students.
According to Headmaster McIntyre, students don’t want to spend summer doing the same as what they do in school, and that summer provides an opportunity to engage them and teach them valuable skills. By matching the students with challenging work opportunities in the summer, Headmaster McIntyre has seen them grow in their social, emotional, and cultural skills, as well as cultivate a sense of responsibility and motivation.
High school seniors Dario Alves and Yuran Teixeira also attested to the positive effects of these experiences. Activities with the Boston Private Industry Council, the Freedom House, Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, State Street, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have enabled them to learn “soft skills”, such as time management, while being exposed to a wide range of career opportunities.
Representative Peisch closed the meeting by emphasizing the importance of confronting pervasive educational inequities, including by expanding summer learning opportunities. The Joint Committee on Education will hear the bill later this spring.