By Gigi Antoni, President and CEO
Summer is our huge opportunity to do something really important for every child in Dallas. It is the time of year to provide children with rich learning experiences outside of the classroom. We have the resources right here in our city. We have the power to transform young lives.
Research has shown since the ‘70s that summer is a time for learning loss, a time when children go hungry, a time when children are the victims of crime, and a time when there is significant erosion of social-emotional learning. This is particularly true in Dallas because one out of three children live in poverty. The impact on the achievement gap is that children not engaged in summer learning fall behind as much as two months each summer, and that loss is cumulative. Without intervention, a student could lag behind as much as two grade levels by the time they reach the sixth grade.
But Dallas has a track record of coming together as a community. Our city has diligently rallied to improve early childhood education, combat homelessness, raise the quality of public school education and provide rich arts learning. As we come together to prioritize supports and interventions that keep our children on a path for success, we can’t afford to ignore the importance of summer learning.
Dallas ISD and the City of Dallas, including the mayor’s office, have made a commitment to addressing this critical need in summer. The district has long been working on summer learning through their 7-year relationship with the Wallace Foundation as a partner for Big Thought’s Thriving Minds Summer Camp program – one of five initiatives selected as a national demonstration site for summer learning. The district brought together the philanthropic community, the business community, and the nonprofit community as allies in the need for summer learning.
Two years ago, Mayor Mike Rawlings started an effort in Dallas to combat the summer slide and give students a tangible pathway to a career. What started out as a small pilot and one of five national vanguard cities as part of the Cities of Learning endeavor (now LRNG) supported by the MacArthur Foundation, has now grown into a citywide initiative engaging more than 34,000 youth and projected to increase to 100,000 youth in three years – Dallas City of Learning.
Dallas City of Learning is a public-private citywide commitment to ensure all students have access to summer learning opportunities as we collectively combat summer learning loss and the growing opportunity gap that disproportionally affects low-income youth. Thanks to a new digital platform powered by LRNG, we can connect youth to in-person and online educational experiences provided by hundreds of partners both nationally and locally, while deploying technology and programs to our most underserved neighborhoods and raising the quality of instruction in summer.
Dallas City of Learning, which is managed by Big Thought, will be a system with shared benefits, fueled by school-based summer learning led by Dallas ISD and community-based summer learning led by the city of Dallas and hundreds of community partners. It will be scalable, featuring integrated and blended learning, with a powerful shared online searchable database. The target is K-12, giving children in all grade levels a combination of high-quality summer programs merging academics and enrichment as well as providing programs and events designed for students to discover their talents, connect with their peers, and prepare for jobs.
The community will have access to data that helps us understand what neighborhoods are being served and where the gaps are. When you combine all of our resources, not to mention our enthusiastic motivation, it’s clear that all of these factors are coming together and leveraging each other so that we can serve more students.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa unveiled their plan to a room full of friends and supporters Dec. 14 during a private luncheon hosted by long-time supporter, Deedie Rose. The event introduced their strong relationships with the city, the school district, the business and nonprofit communities. The luncheon gave us all a forum to discuss the benefits and challenges of making sure Dallas students keep learning during summer.
Summer is important. We are ready to double-down on summer as a community. We are prepared to give every child in Dallas the opportunity to blossom educationally and socially.