Despite a late announcement of the opportunity, Bloomberg Philanthropies supported summer school in 93% of New York City’s charter schools serving students in K-8. In July and August, Bloomberg Philanthropies and partners supported more than 17,000 elementary and middle school children from 226 New York City charter schools through Summer Boost, a high-quality, in-person summer learning program intended to help them catch up academically and socially after pandemic-related school closures. They reached more than two-thirds of their 25,000 target students.
Summer Boost cost $50 million total and offered participating schools up to $2,000 per participating student.
Participating schools agreed to hold an in-person summer session for at least five weeks and to reserve three hours daily for instruction in reading and math. They also agreed to have their students take part in pre- and post-testing to measure their academic progress.
According to Bloomberg Philanthropies, “Every school will administer Summer Boost NYC pre- and post-tests to all students at the beginning and end of the summer program which are New York Next Generation Learning Standard-aligned assessments for both English and Math. The data will be evaluated by researchers, along with spring and fall 2022 iReady and NWEA assessment data for participating students and comparison students, and program attendance data, as well as survey responses from program leaders, teachers, parents, and/or students to understand the impact of the programming on students’ literacy and math achievement.”
A spokesperson for Bloomberg Philanthropies reported that they were just beginning to analyze pre and post program results, which were not yet available at press time.
While participating schools were offered use of the Lavinia Group’s RISE curriculum, that was not a requirement for participation.
What Schools Did
At KIPP, extra funding from Summer Boost allowed the network to expand their traditional Summer Bridge program for middle school students transitioning to high school from 90 to 150 participants. According to Jane Martínez Dowling, Chief External Affairs Officer at KIPP NYC, KIPP’s objective for Summer Boost, which ran from July 25 through August 18, was to alleviate learning loss by targeting students who need the most support. The cohort now transitioning into high school switched to remote learning in seventh grade and spent much of eighth grade facing on and off school closures.
Because the Summer Boost initiative was announced so late in the academic year, however, some of NYC’s 241 charter schools serving K-8 students opted to stick to the programming they’d already planned.
According to Success Academy’s EVP of Public Affairs Ann Powell, about 1,000 of the network’s 17,000 scholars participated in Summer Boost. The rest were offered the chance to participate in their already established Outschool, Global Learning Academy, Summer Experience and Summer Learning partnerships. A parent also reported that their SA child will, instead, be taking a Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) prep course through the Department of Education.
Other networks joined Summer Boost but chose to keep their preplanned curriculum. For instance, the DREAM Charter School network will be using their own, time-tested curriculum to serve 1,276 students in their Summer Boost program.
“DREAM has been running robust summer programming across communities in New York City for more than 30 years, helping our scholars combat summer learning loss, increase their social-emotional growth, and maintain a focus on their physical and mental well-being,” Richard Berlin, DREAM's co-Chief Executive Officer, summarized. “Today, summer programming is a fundamental aspect of our extended-day, extended-year model, and we've used those three decades of experience to better impact our scholars, their families, and the communities we serve."
DREAM’s summer learning curriculum included FUNdations, a research-based and externally reviewed phonics and phonemic awareness program, and Geodes, decodable texts aligned with that phonics program. In math, instruction centered on story problems and high-priority standards for each grade.
But it wasn’t all classrooms and testing!
KIPP, for instance, created a schedule of four days of academics and one day of field trips every week.
Meanwhile, DREAM offered baseball, softball, dance, art, yoga, STEM, and more, to keep students attending and engaged. In addition, DREAM applied a trauma-informed lens in all aspects of planning, training, supervision, and implementation, with a staff which includes social workers and other adults who are trained to counsel students in need of extra support.
James Merriman, CEO of the NYC Charter School Center, praised the Summer Boost funding which will allow more students the opportunity to catch up on everything they’ve missed since schools first closed in March of 2020. “Teachers are telling us about the great harm that COVID has caused even in the best of circumstances. Too many kids aren’t used to being in a structured school environment. The last thing they need is more time out of school. This solves for that. Hopefully it ends up at the end of the summer with kids having learned more—and more ready to learn come the Fall.”
Sydney Buchanan-Gilbert, a rising fifth grader at Hebrew Language Academy in Brooklyn, is on track to do just that. As she said, “Summer Boost is valuable because it is helping me to learn more and get ready to come back to school in September.”