United Way Announces Fifth Year of Successful Summer Learning Program

Over 2,000 K-3 students expected to benefit from literacy programs proven to avoid summer learning loss and reduce achievement gap

United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley is awarding $229,000 to serve over 2,000 elementary school-age children in 22 program sites in Greater Boston and Merrimack Valley through its nationally-recognized Summer Learning Collaborative. The 2014 locations will serve students from the communities of Lynn, Lawrence, Lowell, Salem, Winthrop, Peabody, Revere, Cambridge, Somerville and Boston neighborhoods of Dorchester, East Boston, Allston Brighton, Chinatown and Roxbury.

Last year, 89% of K-3 students in the United Way Summer Learning Collaborative avoided learning loss during the summer months, better preparing them for the start of the new school year. Evaluation results also show that participating children showed 2.4 months of growth in literacy skills and that 85% reported enjoying reading more at the end of the summer. Participating organizations gave the program high marks too: 89% of staff stated the Summer Learning Collaborative improved program curriculum and activities.

Statewide, 53% of children are not reading proficiently by 4th grade, according to the 2014 KIDS COUNT report released last week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. The Summer Learning Collaborative invests in existing summer programs, focusing on communities with turnaround school districts where reading proficiency rates are lower than the state average. A partnership between United Way, BOSTnet, community-based organizations, and school districts, the SLC improves children’s literacy outcomes by focusing on professional development for program staff and increasing program capacity, enabling programs to infuse literacy throughout their programs in meaningful, fun, engaging curricula and activities.

“Reading proficiency by the end of third grade has been identified as one of the key indicators of a child’s long-term potential for success in school and beyond,” said Michael K. Durkin, President of United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley. “Our experience with the SLC confirms that low-income children in particular are vulnerable to summer learning loss, but that with the right resources, we can help them minimize losses and even achieve sustainable gains during the summer.”
Results from the SLC have continued to improve year after year, with the program entering its 5th summer in 2014. Based on its demonstrated success from previous years, the project has been sustained through the generous support of Target Corporation, Boston Consulting Group, Boston Financial Data Services, The Betty Beland Greater Lawrence Summer Fund and individual donors.

Endorsed by education leaders and nearly a dozen best-selling local children’s authors such as Jan Brett, Grace Lin, Peter Reynolds and Mark Peter Hughes, this scalable model yields immediate improvements in children’s literacy skills and overall program quality, all at a cost of less than $200 per child.

“Every moment we spend in school is precious, but when the students are slipping backwards over the summer, it makes our work during the 180 days of school even more challenging. That is why it is essential for parents and schools to seek out effective learning opportunities for their students during the summer months,” said Matthew Stahl, Principal at Pawtucketville Memorial Elementary School in Lowell, and coach for the Summer Learning Collaborative.

2014 SLC locations

  • Boston: Ellis Memorial, Dorchester YMCA, East Boston YMCA, Egleston YMCA, Oak Square YMCA, Wang YMCA, East Boston Social Centers
  • Cambridge: Community Art Center
  • Lawrence: YWCA of Greater Lawrence, YWCA of Greater Lawrence at the Parthum School, Greater Lawrence Community Action Council
  • Lowell: Girls Inc. of Lowell, Community Teamwork Inc. Pawtucketville, Community Teamwork Inc. Murkland
  • Lynn: Camp Fire North Shore Council, Girls Inc. of Lynn, Gregg Neighborhood House
  • Peabody: For Kids Only
  • Revere: For Kids Only
  • Salem: For Kids Only
  • Somerville: Somerville YMCA
  • Winthrop: For Kids Only