Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday toured the Birmingham Summer Institute with members of the Jefferson County Legislative Delegation and advocates for expanding community-based, high-quality summer learning across the state.
The group discussed the importance of summer learning in non-COVID-effected school years along with ways to expand access to high-quality programs in the future.
“As a former teacher, I know firsthand how valuable the summer months can be to help students build upon their school year or like what we are experiencing this year because of the pandemic, make up for learning loss,” Ivey said. “I was proud to visit the Birmingham Summer Institute during National Summer Learning Week to see all of the partnerships and resources being pulled together to help our students. It is critical now more than ever that we put a focus on meaningful education reform.”
I enjoyed a great visit w/ the Birmingham Summer Institute today; I even showed off some of my 🏈 receiver skills! I’m so proud to see organizations like BSI answer the call & provide an opportunity for AL’s students to receive crucial summer enrichment. #StrongStartStrongFinish pic.twitter.com/D4kPk5fid3
— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) July 14, 2021
Ivey said that education should also prepare students to be better able “to make money” when they are adults.
The Birmingham-based Summer Adventures in Learning organized the governor’s visit to BSI to celebrate National Summer Learning Week. National Summer Learning Week is an annual demonstration of high-quality summer learning programs across the country.
Following her tour, Ivey presented SAIL and BSI leaders with a proclamation declaring July 12 through July 16, 2021, as Summer Learning Week in Alabama. Ivey met numerous students at the school for short one-on-one introductions. Ivey visited classrooms and went to the gym to meet the students there for a physical education class.
State Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, and State Rep. David Wheeler, R-Vestavia Hills, joined Ivey on the tour of the Birmingham Summer Institute.
The Birmingham Summer Institute is at the Daniel Payne Community Plaza. The Daniel Payne Plaza at 1500 Daniel Payne Drive was formerly Birmingham City Schools’ Daniel Payne Middle School. After the devastating tornados of April 2011 leveled much of the Pratt City community in North Birmingham, so many families left the area that the students at Daniel Payne Middle School were moved to South Hampton Elementary and it became South Hampton K-8.
SAIL is a network of several Alabama-based philanthropies founded in 2012 to build support for rigorous summer learning across the state. SAIL facilitates assessments, peer learning and funding opportunities for summer learning programs to ensure high-quality summer learning programs thrive in Alabama.
It helps organize child policy councils, education foundations and other community organizations to invest in rigorous summer learning programs, expand access to high-quality programs, and foster a culture of collaboration and cooperation between providers.
The Birmingham Summer Institute is a six-week summer enrichment program for rising 3rd through 8th-grade students to combat summer learning loss. This summer is BSI’s fifth.
Its curriculum focuses on reading, math and social-emotional learning skills. During the summer of 2019, BSI students celebrated nine months of growth in reading and 10 months of growth in math. In 2020, despite a limited program that was virtual due to the pandemic, BSI met its goal with a four-month growth in math.
Advocates for more high-quality summer learning opportunities say the academic gains made by BSI students are similar to those gained in other community-based programs located throughout Alabama. Over the last five years, on average, students enrolled in a SAIL-supported program gained 2.6 months in reading and 1.7 months in math.
Alabama has the poorest performing public school system in the country. Pre-pandemic Alabama’s students scored 52nd in math and 46th in Reading, even though Alabama spends more money per pupil on education than many of the states that are ahead of Alabama.
Many educators are fearful that end-of-year testing in 2021 will show that the long COVID-19 school shutdowns combined with some breakdowns in e-learning may show an even greater number of students who have fallen behind their grade level targets. Those test results are expected to be made public sometime this month.
Advocates for expanded summer learning opportunities argue that adding an additional four to six weeks of voluntary instruction over the summer break will allow Alabama students to better compete with their peers both in this country and globally.
Jim Wooten is the chair of Summer Adventures in Learning.
“Families have shown a strong desire to enroll their children in summer learning programs this summer to help alleviate the academic challenges their children faced this school year due to COVID,” said Wooten. “Families should have the same opportunities to help their children every summer. Research shows that students from low-income communities lose two to three months of reading and math skills on average each summer. This summer proves that more Alabama families are interested in participating in a summer learning camp than the number of programs currently offered. We encourage state leaders to prioritize new investments in summer to meet this demand.”
SAIL programs meet the gold standard for summer learning because they blend the best elements of traditional schools and summer camps to produce academic growth as the students enjoy camp. SAIL does not require its programs to follow a specific curriculum. This flexibility allows each site to design a summer learning program that meets students where they are academically, is tailored to the child’s interests, and addresses the needs of the whole child.
Americorps volunteers were among the instructors at SAIL.
Here is a list of programs receiving SAIL funding in Birmingham, and here is a list of programs receiving SAIL funding in the Blackbelt. To view a list of programs receiving SAIL funding in Huntsville and Madison County, click here.