EDITOR’S NOTE: United Way of Greater Cleveland is emphasizing its strategy to combat summer learning slide among area students. This is the first in a series of stories profiling Summer Learning efforts in local schools.
By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer
“Having the Community Wraparound Strategy and the summer program brings in partners that can expose them to other programs that you won’t find in our neighborhood, things that our kids would have never imagined.”
— Tiffany Allen, site coordinator at George Washington Carver School
“A mom asked me, ‘What’s my baby going to do over the summer?’” said Tiffany Allen, site coordinator at George Washington Carver School. “I told her about Camp Carver and she said, ‘Everybody needs to know about this,’ and took about 50 of my flyers and literally took it upon herself to go door to door and drop them off.”
Providing Summer Learning for the second year in a row, George Washington Carver’s Camp Carver has students coming from other CMSD schools to take part in its afterschool activities.
Camp Carver provides students with the opportunity to participate in sports, arts and other electives after mandatory summer school, which has increased attendance while providing students a safe place to be while their parents are at work.
Camp Carver, runs Monday through Friday, after mandated summer school ends. Students from all grade levels have signed up to take part in classes taught by instructors in the community, including tap and hip-hop dance, bucket drumming and yoga.
Since its introduction, Carver has seen attendance in its mandated summer school go up. While Summer Learning works to prevent summer slide —learning loss that takes place during the summer months — Carver has seen summer gain. Students have caught up to and exceeded their academic level since the end of the school year, rather than falling farther behind, Allen said.
Many of the students are returning to Camp Carver for its second year, Allen said. More than 20 schools are represented across the 96 students enrolled.
Average attendance is 75 students, with children grouped by age for Summer Learning activities. Younger students are escorted to each 30-minute activity. There is also a Girls in STEM program for older students, meant to encourage young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
“Providing this opportunity after summer school allows those kids to have somewhere safe to be,” she said. “Sure, there’s a library, yes there’s community centers, but why not have more? It allows our kids to have more opportunities to be exposed to things and have more safe spaces where they can be in our community.”
Community Wraparound schools
Carver is part of United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Community Wraparound Strategy , which is part of a national movement toward community-centered schools.
“A Community Wraparoud school is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources,” according to Coalition for Community Schools, a national alliance of education, development and support agencies. “Its integrated focus on academics, services, supports and opportunities leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities.”
Cleveland’s Community Wraparound Strategy places site coordinators in 25 of CMSD’s lowest performing schools to address outside factors that could affect a students’ academic performance or attendance. These factors include housing instability, hunger and health care needs.
United Way of Greater Cleveland supports a site coordinator in each school through a grant provided to the lead agencies. In Carver’s case, Allen was hired by Burton, Bell, Carr Development Inc. — the community development corporation for the Central neighborhood and Carver’s lead agency.
Part of the site coordinator’s job is to broker services for the school and community they serve. Since the strategy’s induction in 2013, the value of services leveraged for wraparound schools has gone from more than $800,000 to $7.1 million in 2015-16, according to United Way of Greater Cleveland and CMSD’s presentation to the Board of Directors June 15.
Summer Learning extends wraparound services for students and the community beyond the academic school year.
“One of the things we know about our community is that it’s very difficult for families to come up with opportunities for their children to be exposed to things that are outside of their community,” Allen, said. “Having the community Wraparound program and the summer program brings in partners that can expose them to other programs that you won’t find in our neighborhood, things that our kids would have never imagined.”
Beyond test scores
Summer Learning goes beyond just raising students test scores and attendance. Allen said they are trying to build relationships where kids and parents are not afraid to ask for help and feel they can depend on one another.
“We’re trying to build relationships with our families where the can reach out when they’re in need,” she said. “We’re not just a school that’s trying to educate your child, we’re trying to build a community environment where we can all lean and depend on each other.”