BOSTON — Recent studies have sparked an increase in the number of single-gender schools and classrooms in the nation; however, the availability of single-gender summer learning programs is still lacking, particularly in under-resourced communities. At the same time, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has made statements echoing the volumes of research that support rigorous summer learning programs as a way to avoid the “summer slide” and address the achievement gap. Bringing together these best practices, BELL™ (Building Educated Leaders for Life™) has created one of the nation’s first single-gender summer learning programs specifically designed to support Black and Latino boys in under-resourced communities. The program, called “Boys of BELL,” is made possible through the support of the Charles Hayden Foundation and other funders.
The program’s specific goal is to address the needs of young boys—primarily Black and Latino boys—who face disproportionally large obstacles in their pursuit of educational success and typically underperform their potential by the widest margin among all groups of students. The Boys of BELL program provides students, who BELL calls “scholars,” with rigorous educational support in reading and math, mentoring and enrichment that dramatically improve children’s core academic skills, strengthen their self esteem, and elevate their expectations. The summer learning program also addresses the scholars’ behavior and attitudes towards learning, helping them to develop healthy study habits and self esteem that serve as a foundation for future learning.
Boys of BELL is based on the co-ed “BELL Summer” program — an award-winning summer learning program that was cited in President Barack Obama’s 2005 STEP-UP legislation supporting summer learning, and was also part of a June 2009 Presidential event recognizing innovative programs that are transforming communities across the nation.
Boys of BELL operates for 6.5 hours per day, five days per week, for five weeks in July and August. During the program, scholars engage in a comprehensive combination of literacy and math instruction, as well as social enrichment activities. On “Mentor Fridays,” scholars extend their learning experiences beyond the classroom by listening to guest lectures from community leaders, and by participating in educational field trips and community service projects. As part of the rigorous and robust academic program, Boys of BELL incorporates strategies, educational content and activities that are specifically tailored to the needs and interests of Black and Latino boys.
On average, scholars in the program will gain an average of three months of academic skills—as opposed to backsliding three months as many students do during the summer. In addition, scholars will cut their achievement gap in reading by 50% during the five-week program.
About the Charles Hayden Foundation:
The Charles Hayden Foundation seeks to promote the mental, moral and physical development of children and youth ages five to eighteen in the metropolitan area of New York and the City of Boston. Our focus is on those institutions and programs serving youth most at risk of not reaching their full potential, especially youth in low-income communities. We support programs that have a long-term and significant impact on children.
About BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life):
BELL, founded in 1992, is one of the nation’s leading providers of quality afterschool and summer learning programs. It is committed to enhancing the educational achievements, self-esteem and life opportunities of children living in under-resourced communities. BELL serves more than 11,000 children annually in schools throughout Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Detroit, Flint (Mich.), New York City and Saginaw (Mich.). Please visit www.bellnational.org for more information.