Philly school district combats summer slide with new summer camp

Two adults stand at the front of a classroom with a handful of young students sit at round tables.
Students at Summer Achievers eating breakfast at Solomon Solis-Cohen elementary school. (Azia Ross / Chalkbeat)

Rows of Philadelphia students lined up in the Solis-Cohen elementary school backyard on Tuesday morning, ready to start their first day of summer camp. But this year, they’ll be getting much more than traditional camp activities through the school district’s new Summer Achievers program.

The district is offering 13 summer programs across the city for students of all grades with approximately 23,000 students taking part. The Summer Achievers program, in particular, provides students with academics as well as fun. The free program, open to all Philadelphia students in grades 1 - 8, will offer math and English classes in the mornings and enrichment activities in the afternoon, including field trips and sports.

Programs like the Summer Achievers are central to Mayor Parker’s push for year-round schooling. There’s a possibility programs like these could become the new normal with the city’s new budget featuring millions in new education funding Parker says will go toward expanded after school and year round programming in 2025.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to continue to learn and expand on that learning so that we can minimize … that summer slide,” said Deputy Superintendent of Academic Services Jermaine Dawson.

Summer slide refers to learning lost during the summer months. While many teachers and education advocates suggest that students continue to read over the summer, that’s often not enough. A 2020 study found that U.S students lost more than half of what they learned in school over the course of five summers. Concern about learning loss and maintaining students’ academic gains has only grown since the COVID 19 pandemic.

To close these gaps, students attending Summer Achievers will receive additional support in academics from their previous grade — often from educators they already know.

Malik Johnson, a counselor at Solis-Cohen School, is one such staff member. On Tuesday, he greeted a girl named Envy with a smile as she made her way to the orange cone where his group of students were lining up. He complimented another on their shoes.

“This is the first year we are truly expanding programming to touch more students and to make sure our programs are easily accessible to students and families since we know that was a barrier in previous years,” said Randi Davila, Assistant Superintendent in the district’s Office of Student Life.

Students raise their hands to show they're excited at the Summer Achievers program at Solomon Solis-Cohen School. (Azia Ross / Chalkbeat)

Summer Achievers along with Young Entrepreneurs, which is for high school students, are the only two new summer programs being offered by the district.

Summer Achievers “has been in the works for several years and is a model for what summer programming can look like in a full-day, year-round School,” said Ayana Williams, Deputy of Communications for Mayor Parker, in a written statement.

The district will roll out a year round school pilot program in 20 elementary schools starting this fall. These schools will provide families with before and after school care.

“This is what summer is all about. It’s about catching up on your academics, but it’s also about having fun,” said Jessica Shapiro with The Office of Children and Families.

Azia Ross is a summer intern for Chalkbeat Philadelphia. You can reach her at aziaross@chalkbeat.org.


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