Expansion of Successful Indianapolis Summer Learning Program Statewide

Last year, approximately 800 students were turned away from the summer learning program at the Boys and Girls Clubs in the South Bend, Indiana area. Many of these students were found to be academically two years behind as a result of the pandemic.

Jacqueline Kronk, CEO of the clubs in St. Joseph County, was deeply concerned about this issue and eagerly embraced an opportunity to enroll additional students this summer as part of an extension of a successful effort in Indianapolis.

Ventured in 2021 to address the learning disparities post-pandemic, the Indy Summer Learning Labs is set to receive over $5 million in funding from Indiana for expansion into Gary, South Bend, as well as the rural areas of Salem and Wabash. This five-week program, catering to students from first to ninth grade, consists of a blend of academics and enjoyable activities, showing notable improvements in both math and English, as acknowledged by the state.

Through the “Expanding What Works” grants, Kronk has amplified her program’s reach from 1,500 students last year to 2,500 across five counties near South Bend. Furthermore, there have been new teacher recruits from local schools and enhancements in the curriculum.

“We cannot overlook the lingering impact of COVID on the learning and development of our young students. It is a concerning reality that demands our urgent attention and intervention,” expressed Kronk. “We must be proactive in addressing this issue comprehensively.”

The non-profit Mind Trust and the United Way of Central Indiana initiated the Indy Learning Labs in 2021, accommodating 3,000 students at 35 sites within the city, offering a chance for students to make up for lost academic time. The labs also include enriching experiences like field trips that are accessible to students from all backgrounds.

Over the years, the labs have seen a growth in participation, with projections of up to 5,500 students at 49 sites in the city this summer, encompassing schools, churches, youth centers, or non-profit organizations. Despite no income limits, a significant proportion of children qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, extending the program’s reach to families with limited financial resources.

In the wake of the pandemic, cities and school districts have increasingly adopted summer programs as an essential strategy to address academic setbacks. A Rand Corp. survey conducted in 2023 revealed that more than 70% of school districts have either introduced or expanded summer programs, utilizing federal COVID relief funds.

While the typical summer programs show modest gains in math and reading skills, a recent study highlighted significant progress experienced by students in the Summer Boost program funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies in eight cities, including Indianapolis.

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