Studies have long shown that summer academic enrichment programs significantly improve K-12 student academic performance. Recently, a study of the Powers Scholars Academy Camp summer programs found students gained on average two months of reading skills and a month on math skills during the program. Self-confidence and positive attitudes also soared, along with increases in communications skills.
With that kind of success rate, shouldn’t all low-income students and people of color/indigenous people (POCI) participate in important summer academic enrichment programs? And if they aren’t, what are the barriers?
One barrier is a culture of thinking of schooling as a partial-year experience. The school calendar model still revolves around archaic timelines of an agricultural society, and most Americans are quite accustomed to taking the summer off from education. In addition, many parents may feel their children need a break from schooling and from working hard year-round.
To increase participation, it’s important to also help shift cultural perceptions about education. Simply offering an opportunity such as summer programming without translating it into cultural practice may not be enough to overcome implicit conditioning where school is considered a fall-through-spring affair.
Creating new ways to see summer programs that cast them in a different light— for example, structuring fairs that highlight excitement and program uniqueness and personalizes choices for enrichment activities— can help to shift how students and parents think about such opportunities.
Another barrier is access to these programs and experiences. Parents from upper-incomes have long used their privileges of wealth and access to acquire enrichment experiences for their children, ranging from private tutors and camp experiences to exotic family trips that serve to provide new sensory and cultural experiences. But many low income and POCI communities don’t have access to knowledge of programs nor the finances to pursue them.
This is why MnEEP’s Summer Academic Enrichment Guides are so important. Designed by POCI students in the early 1990s, the Guide has been instrumental in connecting thousands of students to the often-free local programs that support sound multi-cultural practices. Financed by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, the Guide serves to improve access to college for underrepresented students.
Look soon for the 2018 MnEEP Academic Enrichment Guide, and meanwhile, be sure to check out our 2017 Guide to learn more about summer programming in Minnesota.