Summer learning opportunities for all
By Uzma Azhar, senior policy analyst, Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network
Summer presents an exciting and unique opportunity for youth to experience learning and growth, while exploring new avenues of interest outside of the classroom. According to America After 3PM, 47% of Greater Atlanta parents reported having at least one child participate in a summer program in 2019, while 52% of greater Atlanta parents reported that they would have liked to enroll their child in a summer program if one were available. This need has only increased with the loss of instructional time that students have faced due to the pandemic.
High quality summer learning programs can play a critical role in inspiring learning, providing enrichment activities, keeping kids safe and healthy, and supporting working families. According to a RAND Corporation report, critical elements of effective summer programs include voluntary, full-day programming for five days a week for at least five weeks; hands-on learning provided by certified teachers; small class sizes; no program fees to families; and free transportation and meals. Fortunately, many high-quality, community-based and school-based summer learning programs have opened their doors to Greater Atlanta’s youth, developed partnerships and adapted innovative practices to accelerate learning and support the development of the whole child.
Girls Inc. of Greater Atlanta utilizes evidence-based practices, supportive environments and mentoring programs to focus on the development of the whole girl. This summer, their camps combined enrichment and academics to provide a holistic learning experience and provide new learning experiences through topics such as business and entrepreneurship, dance, sports and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Girls Inc. has also partnered with school districts to expand its programming to Dekalb, Clayton and Cobb counties to provide high-quality summer learning experiences to more youth across the region.
Key components of high-quality summer learning programs, such as providing free transportation and meals to students, are necessary to reduce non-academic barriers to success and ensure that the physical needs of youth are being met so they can continue to learn and thrive. This summer, Fulton County Schools has provided both in-person and virtual summer learning options with a focus on academic acceleration. The district has seen the largest turnout to its summer programming to date because they incorporated parents’ advice and are providing transportation and feeding breakfast and lunch to students at no cost to families.
Summer Learning Week is July 11-15, an annual national advocacy event that elevates the importance of keeping kids learning, safe and healthy every summer. This is an excellent time for our community to recommit to providing high-quality summer learning opportunities to Greater Atlanta’s young people. To ensure that all youth have access to high-quality summer programs like these, we must continue to build partnerships between stakeholders such as summer learning providers and school districts, create a network of providers that offers comprehensive programming in critical content areas, and invest in these programs. To learn more about how to increase access to and strengthen the quality of greater Atlanta’s summer learning landscape, read “Investing in Summer Learning Opportunities: Recommendations from the Greater Atlanta Summer Learning Council.”
The Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network (GSAN) is a public-private collaborative that envisions a day when all communities in Georgia have the resources to provide high-quality afterschool and summer programming. Our mission is to advance, connect and support high- quality afterschool and summer learning programs to promote the success of children and youth throughout Georgia.
GSAN convened a Summer Learning Council to develop a shared region-wide summer learning agenda as well as increase and coordinate funding from public and private sources. The council is comprised of key philanthropic, business, community, and civic leaders, along with school superintendents and summer learning program providers.