August Scholars Starting Its Seventh Year

August 5, 2014
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August Scholars, a three-week summer academic program for children in the third to sixth grades, opened its doors this week at two sites—one at The Learning Project Elementary School in the Back Bay and one at Suffolk University on Beacon Hill. The program is serving 97 children who need an academic boost at the mid point of summer to prepare them for success in school in September.

Many programs have been developed in the past decade to address summer learning loss in vulnerable student populations. August Scholars’ target population is urban students who are performing below grade level and whose families do not have the resources to provide scholastic support in the summer. This year, 95 percent of the children attend various Boston Public Schools. While parents are invited to make a small contribution based on income at the time of registration, the program is offered free of charge.

According to Michael McCord, Head of The Learning Project, the program has three major objectives– to stem summer learning loss and to prepare children scholastically for the next school year; to replace negative attitudes about self and learning with positive attitudes; and to prove to the children–by showing them data based evidence –that if they work hard and if they maintain a positive attitude, they can and will improve their academic performance significantly, even in three weeks. And the statistical evidence seems conclusive: Last year’s aggregated average scholastic improvement showed a 99.6-percent gain from pre-test results to post-test results (over the four main subject areas: math, reading, vocabulary and writing.)

A core idea of the Scholars Program is to put before the children only the absolute best teachers that can be found—teachers who know how to help each Scholar make significant progress in three weeks. Only teachers who have experience working with lower income urban children are hired. Five of the eight teachers working this summer are employed in large urban public schools–three with the BPS — and seven of the eight are returning August Scholars teachers.

August Scholars started in 2008 with seven students and one teacher. The faculty now totals 16 – eight teachers and eight counselors. Scholars arrive on two busses—one from Dorchester, another from Roxbury. They start their days around 8:15 with a ‘working breakfast’ and spend first period on math. After a 20-minute class meeting, which occasionally combines sections and once a week is an All Scholars Meeting, they work until lunchtime on reading, writing and vocabulary. Scholars are sometimes working on their own, sometimes in pairs, and sometimes playing scholastic games as a group. There are frequent breaks and many opportunities to celebrate academic successes—individual or group. After lunch, children rotate through several arts experiences (dance, music and visual arts), which are run by cooperating partners, The Community Music Center of Boston and The Tony Williams Dance Studio. Scholars finish up the day with a study hall where they practice and further develop concepts from the morning and, also, with a few minutes to fill in a Self Evaluation of their day. There is no homework—“It’s summertime,” said McCord; but there is ‘opportunity work’—extra work that children can elect to take home. And many do.

“We’re trying to teach our Scholars that an education is not something one ‘gets;’ it is something one ‘makes,’ and every opportunity to learn and to grow their brains strong is one we hope they will want to take. We offer those opportunities.”

August Scholars is generously funded by Liberty Mutual Foundation, The Arbella Insurance Company, The Crawford Family Foundation and many generous individuals. The program is sponsored and operated by The Learning Project Elementary School.

For more information, contact: Michael McCord at mmccord@learningproject.org or 617-266-8427.

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