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Getting Creative for Summer Learning

Even as some districts cut summer programs, others are launching new and creative summer initiatives, the National Summer Learning Association says.

NSLA officials announced that Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, and other areas are exploring new summer programs "thanks to creative partnerships between school districts and community organizations, and an infusion of public and private funding," much of it in the form of federal stimulus dollars.

The news dovetails with NSLA's larger mission to rethink summer school as a time for engaging academics mixed with enrichment, not a punishment or remedial program. With support from the Atlantic Philanthropies, NSLA has launched a three-year campaign to make summer learning an "essential component" of school reform and to boost public funding for it by $50 million. NSLA says it is already "more than halfway" toward that investment goal thanks to several initiatives.

In issuing its news release, NSLA cited data from a new Afterschool Alliance study showing that only one in four American schoolchildren participate in summer learning programs. As to the importance of summer learning overall, here's what NSLA Chief Executive Officer Ron Fairchild had to say:

"For many districts, summer school is an easy first cut. Instead, by re-thinking summer school, those same districts can use summer programming as a path to close the achievement gap, pilot innovative education reform strategies, and offer enrichment opportunities for students who need it most."
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