Assessments Show Student Gains After First Year of Summer Program

MCPS third- and fourth-graders improved in reading, math skills


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Council member Nancy Navarro last year at a press conference on the BELL program.

Aaron Kraut

Third- and fourth-grade students in Montgomery County public schools made headway in reading and math after completing a new summer learning program geared toward low-income children, test results show.

The program formed through a partnership between the county and a Boston-based nonprofit served 1,045 Title I elementary school students in its inaugural class. Assessments conducted by the program showed the participants advanced on average by 1.5 months in reading skills and two months in math skills during the five-week program. The nonprofit, BELL, also reported that nine of 10 teachers surveyed saw increased confidence among students who participated in the program. About 93 percent of parents indicated their child had a brighter outlook on school, and 91 percent said they’d become more involved in their child’s education, according to a BELL press release.

“For many of our Montgomery County students, the alternative would have been the summer slide, with many losing two months of reading and math skills,” Damon Johnson, BELL executive director, said in a prepared statement.

In late 2015, the County Council agreed to direct $750,750 in funding toward the summer program, which also drew support from a $475,375 donation from the Norman R. and Ruth Rales Foundation and $375,375 in donations from BELL’s national fundraising efforts. As a result of these contributions, families were able to participate free of cost last summer. By 2019, the program’s enrollment is expected to grow to 4,200 Maryland students, according to the release.

Council member Nancy Navarro, who helped champion the new program, said she was pleased with the first year's outcome.

"I was very confident that the design of the program was one of very high quality and that it would definitely make a difference," she said.

The full-day program, offered at the Title I schools, stresses math and reading and offers experiential learning opportunities in science, art, technology and performing arts, the release stated.

Navarro said the plan is to open up the program to an additional 1,050 students each year. County officials will be discussing the expansion in coming weeks as they consider next year's budget plan.

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