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Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 100
Baltimore, Maryland 21218-3843
Phone: (410) 516-7160
Fax (410) 516-5251

January 7, 2000
Leslie Rice

Baltimore City Students Attending
Local Summer Program Make Stronger Gains
than Peers, Says Hopkins Study

Baltimore City elementary students who regularly attended a local summer school program made significant academic gains this year, says a new Hopkins study.

Hopkins education researcher Geoffrey Borman has released the first-year results of a three-year longitudinal study that tracks the impact of Teach Baltimore, an academically intensive summer program that trains university students to provide eight weeks of summer reading and writing instruction to low-income Baltimore City elementary students. The study involves about 450 elementary school children from high- poverty areas of the city at five different sites.

Borman, a researcher at Hopkins' Center for Social Organization of Schools, says the results have implications for education policy makers struggling with issues like year-round schooling, mandatory summer school and preventing what is called the "summer slide effect" for poor children. Research has already shown that low-income students tend to post achievement losses during the summer months, while more advantaged children make gains. The disparity is believed to occur primarily because children from middle and upper-income families tend to have more books and reading opportunities over the summer than do children of low- income families. These summer learning differences, compounded year after year, have been shown to be the primary cause of a progressively widening achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children, since children in high poverty neighborhoods tend to learn at the same rates during the school year as their more advantaged peers.

"While common sense suggests that summer instruction may help, strong evidence proving it is missing," says Borman. "Educators have developed very few strong, academically focused and replicable summer programs. Even fewer educators and researchers have designed quality studies of the academic effects associated with summer interventions, and no researchers have assessed the potential benefits of multi-year summer programs."

The study's first-year results show that students randomly assigned to Teach Baltimore performed, as a whole, moderately better than their control group peers. But the students who followed through and actively participated in Teach Baltimore, attending 75 percent or more of program sessions, made significant gains. Among these students, the average Teach Baltimore kindergartner outscored 81 percent of similar control-group peers and the average first-grade student outscored 64 percent of similar control-group students.

However, within the high-attending group, the scores of the most academically needy kindergarten and first-grade students did not improve as much as hoped. Borman believes the lack of improvement among these children could imply that they need specialized instruction beyond that which collegiate volunteers, and many regular teachers, can provide.

"The true test, though, will be what happens over the next two summers," says Borman. "Because the goal of this multi-year program is to prevent children from falling farther and farther behind as they proceed through elementary school, our most interesting results are yet to come."

Founded in 1992 by Matt Boulay, then a Johns Hopkins University senior and now a public elementary school teacher in New York City, Teach Baltimore has provided summer instruction to almost 1,100 Baltimore City Public School students and has recruited and trained 179 college students from 20 institutions of higher education. Teach Baltimore now operates out of the university's Office of Volunteer Services and is entirely run by students and recent graduates.

The Teach Baltimore summer begins with two weeks of intense training, in which instructors become familiar with the curriculum and are introduced to quality lesson planning, behavior management, and parent involvement. Two days after training ends, the eight-week program begins. The Teach Baltimore day begins with a breakfast and is followed by three hours of intensive reading and writing instruction every morning. Morning instruction is followed by lunch and then a series of afternoon activities that focus on hands-on science and mathematics activities, recreation, art, and drama. It also includes weekly afternoon field trips and cultural enrichment experiences like trips to the Washington Zoo, Port Discovery Children's Museum, and other area attractions.

Borman's study is made possible through a grant from the Smith Richardson Foundation, Children and Families at Risk Program. For a complete copy of the Year One Results of "Long-Term Impact of Multiple Summer Interventions on the Reading Skills of Low-Income, Early-Elementary Students Study," contact Leslie Rice at 410-516-7160 or by email at lnr@jhu.edu.

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