Metro

Enrollment doubles in city summer learning project

More than 6,500 Boston children have signed up for city summer learning programs, almost doubling last year’s enrollment and bolstering the idea that education should not stop when vacation starts, Mayor Martin J. Walsh is expected to announce Monday.

The mayor will urge greater involvement in the Boston Summer Learning Project and challenge funders and organizations to get involved to help facilitate participation of 10,000 children in 100 programs over the next two years, city officials said.

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“When we create opportunities for our young people, we set them on a pathway to a successful future,” said Walsh, who will make his announcement at a stop at the Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center in Dorchester.

City officials said the sharply increased enrollment is a result of the escalated interest in summer learning and nearly $2 million in private money that poured in for the project this year.

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The project saw an increase in donations from private foundations, and the city is now aiming for corporate givers that have not traditionally provided education funding.

Private investment for the project was $600,000 in 2010, according to Chris Smith, president of Boston After School and Beyond, which co-manages the summer project.

Smith said the project has been successful because a network of programs scattered across the city gives the children a full range of experiences with measurable results.

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“Funders recognize they could have a really big impact on these children,’’ Smith said. “We hope to get more programs to the table and more funders along side them . . . so that we can support more students.”

The project began in 2010 with the School Department, Boston After School and Beyond, and the Boston Opportunity Agenda as partners. At the time, 232 children were participating in five programs, according to officials familiar with the project.

Last year, the project logged 3,500 city students in 58 programs, city officials said, and this year, 6,574 children are enrolled in 78 programs, such as the Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center, Hale Reservation in Westwood, and the Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center.

City education chief Rahn Dorsey said research has shown that the loss of learning over the summer is a serious problem and parents increasingly are seeking better educational opportunities for their children during school breaks.

“We’ve hit a sweet spot here where we’ve created opportunities, some of which are classroom-based, some of which are community-based that have a lot of rigor and really blur the lines between learning and fun,’’ Dorsey said.

City and education advocates have long argued that during the summer, elementary school children from low-income homes can lose ground in learning.

Studies have backed up that theory, showing that all students suffer some learning loss during summer breaks, but over years, it becomes cumulative for children from families with limited income, many of whom have less access to summer educational programs.

‘We’ve hit a sweet spot here where we’ve created opportunities, some of which are classroom-based, some of which are community-based that have a lot of rigor and really blur the lines between learning and fun.’

Rahn Dorsey, city education chief  
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The city’s summer learning project aims to merge critical thinking, collaboration, and perseverance skills with academics and help the most vulnerable, including English language learners, off-track high school students, and youth assigned to mandatory summer school, officials said.

The project offers a full day of activities and interactive learning, giving children a chance to put their lessons into action. For instance, students might head to a salt marsh after reading about wetland ecology. Such an outing makes content more meaningful, officials said.

The learning project is part of a national study, funded by the Wallace Foundation, on the impact of summer learning on academic performance and social-emotional development.

A recent study from RAND showed that Boston fourth-graders attending a voluntary, summer learning program entered school in the fall with a statistically significant advantage in mathematics, compared to peers who did not attend the program, city officials said.

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.
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