City looks to boost summertime learning

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Michelle Jacques-Menegaz is well aware of the slide that children can take during a break from school. In the spring, students are accustomed to school’s routines. But the three months of an unstructured summer can erase that discipline.

“You get back in the fall and it’s like, ‘Oh, I gotta work again?’” said the mother of two San Francisco middle-school students.

Several summers without educational opportunities can add up, especially for children from low-income families. A dearth of summer-learning is responsible for about two-thirds of the test score gap between ninth-graders from richer and poorer families, according to the National Summer Learning Association.

It has become more difficult for families to find educational summer programs, as public summer school has been eroded by state budget cuts. So Jacques-Menegaz cheered a new initiative to bolster summer learning throughout the state.

The Summer Matters 2012 campaign, organized by the nonprofit Partnerships for Children and Youth and supported by state and local agencies, aims to drum up support for summer learning and expand existing programs to serve an additional 50,000 low-income California children each summer.

“We have to make better investments in our children,” said Mayor Ed Lee during a City Hall press conference Tuesday with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “It will never be only the school districts that have that responsibility.”

The mayor, who recently announced a plan to create 5,000 summer jobs for San Francisco youth this year, said he would call on local businesses to join the summer learning effort as well.

So far, The City has promised to help San Francisco Unified School District fund summer school for secondary students through the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families. The department helped the district last year as well, and it funds summer programs that will serve about 5,000 children and youth this year.

But almost two-thirds of children won’t participate in a summer program at all, according to department projections.

“We are closing the achievement gap,” said San Francisco Unified School District  Superintendent Carlos Garcia. “That can’t happen unless we’re engaging with youth in the summer.”

Time off from learning

32,000 San Francisco youth who will not participate in a summer program this year
19,000 youth who will participate
11,500 youth whose summer programs will be subsidized by public funding
Source: Department of Children, Youth and Their Families