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Taking Quality and Performance to Scale

December 9, 2013 All Articles, Nonprofits and Communities Tags: , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

Learning should never stop and that’s especially true during the summer break. Studies have shown that students lose significant progress in math and reading over the summer. That effect is magnified for children living in economically-disadvantaged populations.

This is the main issue that over 300 experts from Extended-Learning Opportunity (ELO) programs across the country were trying to solve at the 2014 Summer Changes Everything™ Conference, hosted by the National Summer Learning Association.

The nation’s largest conference dedicated exclusively to improving summer-learning programs draws hundreds of professionals each year that are specifically focused on stopping the “summer slide.” For these people, it’s a unique opportunity to learn more about the impact of summer learning on youth development and how to overcome the challenges in setting up a successful summer-learning program.

During the conference, nFocus Solutions hosted a panel session titled, “Taking Quality and Performance to Scale: Best Practices for Multi-Agency Data Collection and Continuous Program Improvement.” Our panelists shared insights about the data-driven programs in their communities that are keeping youth engaged in summer learning.

The panel included:

Elizabeth Fowlkes, Senior Director for Planning and Measurement – Boys & Girls Clubs of America

Ms. Fowlkes spoke about the ‘Summer Brain Gain Program,’ – an 18-week long summer learning program built on a project-based learning approach. Teachers in the program guide students through a series of self-determined projects that align their interests and with overall learning goals. The program features visits from community speakers and field trips to engage students in learning.

In 2012, a demonstration version of the program included 452 children at 20 sites. Of these:

  • 58% maintained performance in reading and math
  • 36% improved their scores

In 2013, the program expanded to 230 sites and included 23 separate evaluations by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, National Office.

Chana Edmond-Verley, Senior Program Officer –DeVos Foundation, Grand Rapids, Mich.

In the ‘Believe 2 Become’ initiative, students choose from multiple summer programs based on age, location and interest. Several of its programs are tied to local community organizations like the YMCA and Camp Fire USA.

According to Ms. Verley, those enrolled in the Foundation’s Summer Learning Academy are seeing strong results:

  • Overall, participating students gain an average of 5.5 weeks of school instruction
  • A 2011 evaluation showed middle-school students gained the equivalent of 14.1 weeks of school-year instruction in math
  • Participation in Summer Learning Academy has reduced odds of truancy by 20 percent

Willis Bright, President of Bright Visions Consulting and former program officer for the Lilly Endowment

Mr. Bright discussed the Summer Youth Program Fund, a statewide initiative in Indiana that funds summer learning programs targeting specific student interests. These programs provide youth a safe place to spend their time during the summer, allowing working parents to focus on their careers.

Since its inception in 1995, the Summer Youth Program Fund has helped introduce inner-city youth to new industries and experiences while funding jobs for college-aged summer program employees.

Of the 170 state-funded summer learning programs in Indiana:

  • 60% of participants are from low-income households
  • 43% are children of single parent households 

Further, Summer Youth Program Fund Partners in 2011 allocated $2.3 million to 177 summer-learning programs.

Using Data to Beat the Summer Slide

In many cases, these organizations have built a data-sharing agreement between multiple agencies, whether that involves building a set of common goals tied to youth development or distributing funding among partner organizations.  The data collected is used to determine how local, state or national resources can best be used to achieve the greatest effect for summer learning.  While initiating these agreements isn’t always easy, panelists agreed that joining forces with other like-minded agencies is a great way to provide better services for youth.

If you are interested in data collection can benefit your organization, download a copy of “A Guide to Data Collaboration in Communities” or visit us at the nfocus wensite.

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