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With city support, District schools offered scaled-back summer programs

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The School Reform Commission has given a tip of the hat, so to speak, to the city’s longstanding commitment to in-school programming for children who might otherwise have been disengaged across the long summer break.

In a resolution at its August meeting, the SRC accepted “with appreciation” out-of-school time (OST) services from the city with a value of about $11.5 million. The sum represents the value of both summer and school-year programming sponsored by the city.

The programming reached more than 3,800 students in nearly 60 District schools in July and August, and more than 4,000 students in as many as 100 schools starting as soon as next week and running into June.

In addition, the city underwrote work opportunities for more than 1,200 high school youth through Philadelphia Youth Network’s WorkReady initiative.

The OST programs aim to provide project-based learning to build life skills, career awareness, resiliency, and personal responsibility. The children also receive help with homework. Other OST programs are run in charter and parochial schools and other settings.

The annual Directory of After-School Programs is set to be published Wednesday, Sept. 10, by After School Activities Partnerships (ASAP) as a supplement in the Daily News. The directory is organized by zip code with contact and activity information.

The multimillion-dollar investment “is not new, but occurs annually,” said Vicki Ellis, executive director of the District’s Office of Strategic Partnerships, in an email. Ellis earlier this year took over leadership of Project Lead, the city’s interagency OST systems-building project called PhillyBOOST.

The District limited its services over the summer to essential programs for special education, seniors near graduation, and a few other groups of students, according to Ellis.

There was assistance for students receiving special education services whose Individualized Education Program required an extended school year.

About 360 students won their diplomas in late July through the District’s Senior Center.

A few schools used school improvement grants to run summer programs, some English language learner students received services, summer camps run by the city’s Department of Human Services functioned in some schools, and the National Society of Black Engineers ran SEEK, Summer Engineering Experience for Kids.

But summer offerings paled by comparison to Summer Learning and More (SLAM) program that ran from 2009 to 2011 under then-Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, an ambitious initiative that was underwritten with millions in federal stimulus dollars and enrolled tens of thousands of students.

Student participation in out-of-school programs has a positive effect, according to a 2014 evaluation of 11 21st Century Community Learning Center grantees running 50 programs, conducted by Research for Action, an independent research group. According to RFA, high levels of participation by elementary students are associated with a lower chance of having 10 or more unexcused absences or out-of-school suspensions; higher grades in reading; higher PSSA reading and math scores; and a greater chance of reading at grade level in grades 1-3.

Similar results were found for middle-school students. At the high school level, participating in such programs lowered chances of 10 or more unexcused absences or out-of-school suspensions and raised the chance of earning credits in English, language arts, and math.

This report is part of an ongoing series of stories on expanded learning time. The stories are the result of a multi-city reporting project by Catalyst Chicago and its partners: EdNews Colorado, EdSource Today, GothamSchools and the Philadelphia Public School Notebook.The collaborative effort was made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation, which has made More and Better Learning Time a priority in its philanthropy.

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