Everyone loves summer – especially in Minnesota. Hot dogs on the grill, lazy days at the lake, county fairs and festivals everywhere you turn. But summer can also pose challenges when it comes to students who struggle to learn. Increasingly, educators are looking for ways to combat the “summer slide”, the phenomenon that has kids avoiding books and other academic activities in the months that school is out. Many children, especially struggling readers, forget some of what they've learned during the school year, making it that much harder to hit the ground running when schools back in session come fall.
That’s where summer learning programs come in, and why programs like the ones funded by the Minnesota Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Grants are so important.
The Minnesota Department of Education has administered the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program since 2002. These federal funds, authorized under Title IV, Part B, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001, help establish or expand community learning centers that provide students with enrichment opportunities during times when school is not in session.
During the last school year alone (2010-11, the most recent data available) $9,625,000 was provided to thirty 21st CCLC grantees to support programming in 98 centers located in urban, suburban and rural communities across the state. More than 21,000 students participated. Since 2002, Minnesota has awarded $77,729,219 to 68 grantees statewide, serving an average of 20,000 students each year.
During the summer months, centers are open an average is 16 hours per week. Programs for students offer a rich array of learning opportunities designed to meet the physical, social, emotional and educational needs of participants. Special attention is devoted to addressing cognitive needs of participants, with additional time spent on core academic areas. The vast majority of centers (98%) provide reading and math programming, while a large number offer science education (89%).
A broader impact of a 21st CCLC program can also be felt across the community in the form of job creation and stronger community engagement. Grantees hired more than 1,680 paid staff during the 2010-11 school year, and provided community engagement opportunities for an additional 639 volunteers.
In August, the Minnesota Department of Education will announce the recipients of the most recent grant competition, awarding $7.1 million to fund 20 new grants in addition to $4.3 million to continue funding for 15 existing grantees. That means that during the 2012-13 school year, there will be 35 grantees serving students in over 100 21st Century Community Learning Centers across the state. Now that’s something to celebrate!
Check out the video below for MDE’s fun tips for parents about how to keep your kids learning all summer: