An MCPS report on the impact of the BELL summer program on student achievement was recently received by the Board of Education.
This coming summer, BELL, which stands for Building Educated Leaders for Life, will be offering its third year of expanded learning opportunities for students in Title I schools who are performing below benchmarks in reading and mathematics.
BELL is a data-driven academic and enrichment program for rising third-, fourth- and fifth-graders that uses proven methods to address the learning loss that occurs for many students during the summer months. During the summer of 2017, 1,050 students participated in the program at eight Title I schools.
BELL is a five-week summer program with staffing that includes MCPS-certified teachers and teaching assistants. The program focuses on literacy, math and a variety of hands-on enrichments. In addition, the program provides family engagement activities, field trips and daily breakfast and lunch for students.
“We are excited to partner with MCPS again for summer 2018,” said Damon Johnson, vice president of partner impact at BELL. “We will continue to use best practices and lessons learned to ensure scholars’ experiences are engaging and rich.”
According to the program evaluation conducted by MCPS, BELL attendees outperformed non-attendees in Grade 4 mathematics, and for students who attended BELL in the summers of 2016 and 2017. In math, there was a positive and significant impact for several subgroups, including African American, Hispanic/Latino, special education students, recipients of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services and recipients of Free and Reduced-price Meals System (FARMS) services. There was also strong performance in Grade 4 reading for African American students and special education students.
There was also good news for Grade 4 and Grade 5 students who attended BELL in the summers of 2016 and 2017. There was a significant positive impact in math for those who attended both summers, especially for African American fourth-graders, Hispanic/Latino fifth-graders and ESOL recipients in Grade 5. For Grade 3 students, the positive impact of the program on math and reading was larger in 2017 than the summer of 2016, particularly for African American students and special education students.
“We are pleased to hear that the BELL program is helping our students prevent the ‘summer slide,’” said MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith. “We believe that these extended year opportunities will improve students’ academic success, self-confidence and social skills. We are excited to be able to reach even more students this summer.”
BELL is one of three programs that helps counter summer learning loss for Title I students. Extended Learning Opportunities—Summer Adventures in Learning (ELO-SAIL) is a five-week summer program in 21 Title I schools for students entering kindergarten, first and second grades. Summer Title I Enrichment Program (ELO STEP) is available to students in third, fourth and fifth grades. Both provide enrichment opportunities in literacy and math instruction, expanded offerings in the arts and sciences, as well as opportunities to nurture critical and creative thinking skills. In July 2019, MCPS will also be implementing extended-year programs at Arcola and Roscoe R. Nix elementary schools.
The BELL program is expected to grow to serve 1,600 students at nine Title I school sites in the summer of 2018. There will be some other changes that are likely to yield stronger results on reading and math skills.
English Language Learner (ELL) specialists will be assigned to each school site and will support implementation of the strategies into instruction. They will coach teachers by plugging into classroom instruction, conducting planning with teachers and holding informal observations.
Instructional coaches will continue to support teachers with planning and modeling lessons.
ELL specialists and instructional coaches will support teachers to help students master grade-level content.
The BELL team will increase the number of training hours for staff prior to the start of the program to deepen their knowledge of the curriculum and instructional practices, with an emphasis on practices to support ESOL students and scaffolding, a teaching strategy that offers students more independence in the learning process.
There are four sources of funding for the BELL program—a special appropriation from the Montgomery County Council; a public-private partnership with the Norman R. and Ruth Rales Foundation; the BELL Foundation; and MCPS funds, which include a federal grant to support Title I schools.
For more information on BELL, visit https://www.experiencebell.org/.