by Stephanie Rokich Director of Elementary Learning
Ever wonder what kids learn in the summer? The National Summer Learning Association has put together an interactive map of dozens of summer learning day programs and activities gong on across the country, all summer long. Check it out to find a dozen programs going on in our Promise Partnerships!
United Way of Salt Lake Promise Partnerships know the importance of summer learning to keep kids on track in school. Otherwise, kids are susceptible to summer learning loss, commonly called the “summer slide”. With little or no access to educational programs or books during the summer, low-income kids often fall behind their peers during the summer and return to school in the fall at a lower academic level than when they left the previous year.
Summer Learning Day is a national advocacy day recognized to spread awareness about the importance of summer learning for our nation’s youth in helping close the achievement gap and support healthy development in communities all across the country.
The vision of the National Summer Learning Association is for every child to be safe, healthy, and engaged in learning during the summer. To realize that vision, the organization’s mission is to connect and equip schools, providers, communities, and families to deliver high-quality summer learning opportunities to our nation’s youth to help close the achievement gap and support healthy development.
All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004).
Most students lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains (Cooper, 1996).
More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college (Alexander et al, 2007).
Children lose more than academic knowledge over the summer. Most children—particularly children at high risk of obesity—gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school during summer break (Von Hippel et al, 2007).
Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do (Duffett et al, 2004).
To answer this question, I have to look back at how I got to United Way of Salt Lake.
I first heard of United Way of Salt Lake while I worked in development at Pioneer Theatre Company. My initial understanding of what UWSL did fell into the old “Community Chest” model of philanthropy; primarily, seeing donor-directed gifts moving through United Way to the theatre. When I started to look for a new job, however, I discovered United Way of Salt Lake is much more than a funnel for funds. UWSL’s shift to a Collective Impact strategy was a turning point for how the organization truly helps to change the odds for kids and families in our community. From my initial tip-toes into UWSL, to launching myself into our recent (and very successful!) internal campaign, seeing what UWSL is doing in our community excites me and ties much of my understanding of how the world works together.
I studied history at the University of Utah for five years, focusing on 20th century America. What interests me most about history is the way that much of the social, economic, and political change that happens in this world, starts and is largely driven at a local, community-based level. I believe that much of the social ill in the world can and must be addressed within our communities. Secondly, I believe that education is a primary driving force for that change.
It is no wonder why UWSL appealed to me as an organization dedicated to changing the odds in our community. What it means to me to LIVE UNITED is not only to be united with the people in my community, but to an idea that we must unite our time, resources, and commitments to make lasting changes. I have seen how a diverse and unified approach can lead to amazing results in communities, and I believe that is what we are doing here in our own backyards at United Way of Salt Lake.
Tim Coray Granger Elementary Community School Director
“The most powerful variable in school improvement is instructional leadership.” Steve Ventura began this year’s Summer Institute at Granite School District offices with this finding. On June 18 and 19, Community School Directors and Principals engaged in conversations and action planning for the upcoming school year. Steve Ventura, a California-based consultant with a background in teaching and administrating schools, facilitated this training focused on contemporary leadership and school improvement strategies.
In my previous career as a teacher, I knew there were many variables in my classroom: attendance, engagement, parent and co-worker collaboration, preparation (both mine and my students’), and on and on. During my first years in the profession, I used to fret over those factors equally and constantly. Surely, each had the ability to impact my students’ success, and I thought I ought to be able to improve them. However, with time and research, I learned the effect of each of those considerations was neither equal nor within my control. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned during that time was to concentrate my labor on endeavors with which I could affect the greatest change and to limit the sleep I lost over the others.
I recall that experience because the lesson I learned in my own classroom as a teacher was validated during the Summer Institute training. Steve Ventura empowered us with the research and tools to make decisions about where we put our greatest effort based on effect size and desired outcomes. In one exercise, Community School Directors and administration teams listed the programs and initiatives in place in our schools with the goal of analyzing the degree of implementation and the impact each had on students’ achievement. Completing this exercise through the lens of both teachers and administrators allowed us to identify areas of success as well as target programs in need of reconsideration or improved focus. In addition to refining school leaders’ efforts, this practice highlighted the excellent opportunities afforded Community Schools and reminded us that we have a common goal of changing the odds for our students.
Reflecting on the Institute, Granger Principal Amber Clayton agreed. “The difference between this professional development and others is that all our training reminds school leadership of the importance of focusing our energy on areas that affect student achievement the most; however, Steve Ventura gave us the inspiration and tools to do so.”
The key word throughout our Summer Institute was leadership. A program or initiative is the most successful when aligned with the greater goals of the school and implemented with fidelity. Those variables are in the hands of a school’s leadership.
Amy Worthington Volunteer Events and Training Coordinator
On June 19, more than 125 attorneys, staff, family members, and clients from Holland and Hart LLP celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Salt Lake City office with a day of service at Kearns Junior High Community School.
Starting this fall, all 9th grade students and teachers from Kearns Junior High will be moved to Kearns High School. This major transition created a great need for helping hands to offer assistance to the staff and faculty of Kearns Junior.
Volunteers completed 16 different projects, including the tasks of painting, landscaping, cleaning lockers, auditorium chairs, and windows, organizing drama costumes and donated clothing, refurbishing two long-jump pits, assembling registration packets, moving musical instruments and furniture to new classrooms, and helping prepare rooms for the fall when students come back to school.
The 500+ hours of work and various donations given by the volunteers of Holland and Hart made a significant impact at Kearns Junior High. The overwhelming to do list of tasks that needed to be completed prior to school starting in the fall was significantly lessened thanks to their generosity.
This service project was chosen by Holland and Hart in response to Gov. Gary Herbert’s “Year of Service in Utah” challenge, which asked citizens of Utah to volunteer an additional 20 hours of service in their communities. We encourage each of you to do your part to heed the call from Governor Herbert! Show how you LIVE UNITED by signing up to participate in service projects in our community. Visit uw.org/volunteer for a variety of available opportunities.
by Tim Harrison Senior Community Investment Advisor
Last week, Savage employees wrapped up another fun-filled campaign to support our community. The world has to know how differently this company and its employees approach Changing the Odds for kids and families! To say they were “committed” would be an understatement.
Savage Services is currently providing over a dozen volunteers per week to tutor exiting ninth graders who are recovering lost academic credit that they need in order to graduate. We’re starting to see some remarkable results and hear some heartwarming stories about their achievement–so plan on a full update here on The Hub, after we have wrapped up the summer tutoring session.
As far as the campaign goes, Savage blew its own records out of the water (no surprise there). I’m talking bytens of thousands of dollars, people! Part of that is due to the generous employees, who proudly exclaim that 100% of the company participates; it doesn’t matter how much you give, but that you’re all giving together to make a difference. Another big part of that increase is due to the corporate match of employee gifts, which is a remarkable $2 for every $1 pledged!
But hey, it’s always nice when the company kicks back a few prizes for donating, too. Savage didn’t hold back when they raffled off tickets to shows, Jazz suites, vacations up the canyon, and the most coveted parking spaces in the front row of the parking lot!
Thank you — to all the Savage donors, advocates, and volunteers! This community is lucky to have your ongoing support. You are all an outstanding example of what it means to LIVE UNITED.