Despite deep concern about the impact of summer learning loss on disadvantaged youth, relatively few opportunities for summer learning and enrichment have been available for these students, according to the National Center for Summer Learning at Joins Hopkins University and the Education Commission of the States.
Education funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) offers an opportunity to get away from the old remedial, “punitive” model of summer school and develop more innovative summer programming, say the two organizations.
“States have an unprecedented opportunity to use ARRA funds to develop, enhance and expand innovative summer learning programs that help close the achievement gap,” according to a recent Education Commission of the States Idea Paper.
“As an added incentive, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has made clear that summer learning programs and expanded learning time are key components of his education reform agenda and should be part of state applications for the $4.35 billion Race to the Top fund.”
One of the major aims of the stimulus package, of course, is to create and save jobs immediately and to get money circulating into the economy as early as this summer. By acting quickly, some schools and districts are tapping stimulus package funding for summer programs, and schools and districts also can take advantage of increased funding to the Department of Labor for summer jobs for older students (aged 14-24). The funds could be used by districts to staff their summer programs and also to help older students become work-ready or college-ready.
While AARA does not specifically target summer learning, nearly all the education funding streams in the economic stimulus package can be used to offer disadvantaged youth critical educational and enrichment opportunities over the summer months, according to the National Center for Summer Learning.
Learning loss is key issue for Obama
Summer learning loss and its role in the education gap is a key issue for both U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan and President Barack Obama, according to the National Center for Summer Learning. Schools and districts that develop innovative and effective summer learning programs will be in a good position to compete for the $5 billion in innovation funds that will be awarded at the discretion of the Secretary of Education in the future.
Districts that act quickly may be able to access Title I funding this summer to expand current programs or partner with non-profit organizations that have a track record in summer youth programs. For older students, schools and districts could also help students take advantage of increased funding to the Department of Labor for Summer Jobs Funds for Older Youth. ARRA includes $1.2 billion to create up to 1 million summer jobs for eligible youth, says the National Center for Summer Learning.
“The Department of Labor strongly recommends using these funds to create jobs for low-income youth, ages 14 to 24, in summer 2009,” the Center says. For more information, schools and districts should contact their local Workforce Investment Board or other agent that manages the funds such as a county office or the mayor’s office.
These workforce funds can be used to hire teens to staff summer programs, for internships, for occupational skills training and leadership development. They also can be used to pay students stipends to attend academic programs if there is a summer work experience, too. The funds can be used for tutoring, study skills training and instruction leading to the completion of secondary school.
Half of the Title I funds through ARRA were distributed to states on April 1, meaning that funds will be available for use in summer 2009, according to the National Center for Summer Learning. The second half of funds will be distributed in September and will be available for summer 2010. These funds are in addition to the regular Title I allocations districts receive, resulting in significantly more funding available to districts over the next two years, in some cases doubling the annual amount a district receives, said Jeff Smink, director of policy for the National Center for Summer Learning in an April 9 audio conference sponsored by the Center.
More innovative summer learning
“What we’re advocating is a more innovative approach to summer learning, some moving beyond the traditional remedial summer school model that a lot school districts have and going to a more comprehensive plan or program, a full day that includes enrichment activities along with academics that tie back to what’s being learned during the day,” Smink said. He noted that schools could partner with nonprofits to do a wraparound enrichment program if there is a morning session of summer school.
To use Title I funds for summer programming, schools and other providers must make the case that summer programs will improve student achievement and other youth outcomes. They also should not forget that one of the aims of the funding is to save or create jobs.
Following are some questions schools and districts should ask when deciding whether to access these funds:
- What summer learning programs do we currently offer?
- What has been the impact of past and current summer learning programs on academic achievement and other youth outcomes?
- Do we currently partner with any outside organizations to provide summer learning opportunities?
- How can we use ARRA Title I funds to strengthen and create innovative summer learning programs?
- How many jobs will this create or save?
- Have we studied the role of summer learning programs in closing the achievement gap?
Allowable Uses of Funds
Generally, schools have wide flexibility in using Title I funds for regular school programs and the same applies to summer school. However, the following requirements should be considered:
- Title I-funded summer programs need to be linked and aligned with the school’s improvement goals.
- Title I funds can be used for a variety of activities including, but not limited to, enrichment activities and cultural pro grams with an intentional academic focus.
- Title I funds can be coordinated with community groups and used to supple ment other federal education programs such as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, as well as state and local funding sources.
- If the school is a School-wide Title I program, services can be provided for all students
- If the school is a Targeted Assistance Title I school, services can only be provided to eligible students based on multiple selection criteria.
Guidelines for jobs funds
Gregg Weltz, chief, Division of Youth Services Employment and Training Administration U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), said that compared to the $100 billion that is flowing to the Department of Education, the $1.2 billion to the DOL for summer youth employment is “a little slice of pie” yet it essentially doubles the amount of federal money usually available for that purpose. To be eligible for this program, youth must:
- be 14-24 years old
- meet the income guidelines
- have a significant barrier to employment.
Weltz said young adults must come from households at or below 145% of the federal poverty level, which is roughly equivalent to qualifying for schools’ free-lunch program. Young adults also must have one or more of the following barriers to employment:
- be a homeless, runaway, or foster care youth or former foster care youth;
- be involved with the juvenile justice system;
- be pregnant or parenting;
- have a documented disability including learning, mental health, emotional and behavioral disabilities
- be limited English proficient; or be deficient in basic literacy skills;
- be at risk of dropping out of school (behind credit for current grade level; failed a high school proficiency exam; have behavioral or attendance issues; failed a core high school course; have a GPA of 2.0 or lower)
- have a parent who is incarcerated.
- be deficient in work readiness skills (based on locally defined definition and assessment created for the purpose of the Recovery Act)
- be a school dropout.
Two priorities in the program are to place students in “green” jobs and to show a measurable increase in students’ work readiness skills (e.g. arriving on time, dressing properly, working in groups, decision-making) as a result of their summer work experiences, according to Weltz.
“Accessing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to support summer learning programs,” National Center for Summer Learning, April 2009. “Maximizing Education Reform in the Stimulus Bill: Enhancing Summer Learning Programs,” Education Commission of the States, ECS Idea Paper, 2009.