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Eight of Ten Students Engaged in Summer Learning Report Being Better Prepared for School

Funding Applications for 2023 Summer Programs Open March 6

Last year, survey feedback from 1,059 youth served by DEEL’s 2022 summer learning investments showed more than 8 out of 10 students had an overall positive experience in their summer program and felt better prepared to return to school in the fall. This year, community organizations and city agencies are eligible to apply for up to $75,000 per program to support existing programs through DEEL’s Summer Learning Enhancement fund. Applications open March 6. 

DEEL’s investments in summer programs promote college and career readiness by providing Seattle K-12 students with expanded academic and social-emotional learning opportunities. Although Seattle Public Schools returned to in-person instruction in the 2021-22 school year, prolonged distance-learning disproportionately impacted the academic health and well-being of Black, Indigenous, low-income, refugee and immigrant students of color. Washington State math and English-Language Arts (ELA) assessment scores released in fall 2021 showed a majority of 3rd-8th grade students at Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise (FEPP) levy partner schools needing additional supports to meet grade-level standards.  

“Systemic inequities in education that existed long before the pandemic have taken a huge toll on our students. As we navigate the current phase, academic and social-emotional needs remain high,” said DEEL Director, Dr. Dwane Chappelle. “Summer programs mitigate learning deficits by keeping kids engaged in their academic interests while developing friendships during the school break . We’re excited to partner with community organizations providing culturally responsive opportunities rooted in students’ cultures and aspirations.”  

Culturally Responsive Programming Prepares Students for College and Careers 

Research shows summer programs can accelerate learning, mitigate learning loss between school breaks, and foster social-emotional development. DEEL’s Summer Learning Enhancement investments are geared towards students furthest from educational justice and culturally responsive. In 2022, eighteen community-based organizations were awarded funding, with programs including STEAM lessons, social justice, college preparation, field trips, career exploration, goal setting, financial literacy, and activities that strengthen ELA skills. 

Summer programs are an opportunity for youth to explore their academic interests while connecting with peers and building the skills needed to  succeed in school. Summer enhancement fund recipient Empowering Youth and Families Outreach’s 2022 summer program included STEM and reading activities in addition to field trips to the aquarium, and Museum of Pop Culture. Youth were empowered to select classes of interest, with options ranging from robotics, boating, cooking, hip-hop dance, and crafts.  

Community organizations play an important role in the ecosystem of support for Seattle youth by providing culturally responsive programs promoting successful transitions to college and careers. The Somali Family Safety Taskforce hosted a 2022 program for Somali youth including visits to universities and leading industry employers including Microsoft, Boeing, and Port of Seattle. Cultural meals were prepared together by the youth, staff, and parent volunteers, and families participated in a college and career opportunity workshop upon completion of the program.  

Last summer, Levy Oversight Committee members visited summer learning programs to meet community partners, celebrate program successes, and better understand challenges they were facing. The tour included a visit to Launch Learning’s summer program hosted at Madrona Elementary School in which students explored climate justice and sustainability through art, reading, dance, games, and Indigenous teachings with the help of Coast Salish educators. 

Youth learn shapes through an art project at Launch Learning’s summer program hosted at Madrona Elementary School. 
Caption: Youth learn shapes through an art project at Launch Learning’s summer program hosted at Madrona Elementary School. 

“Schools are community spaces intended for use by youth and families year-round. I’m excited to see children happy, learning, and having fun together at school in summer,” said SPS Board Director and FEPP Levy Oversight Committee member, Vivian Song-Maritz, while visiting Launch’s summer program. “Their smiling faces speak to the safe and engaging space Launch has created for them.”  

Students Report Joyful Experiences, Academic Improvement, and New Skills  

Student feedback about their summer programs experience is an asset-based measure DEEL uses to assess the impact and quality of programs. Our 2022 survey asked students questions about how well they felt their summer program prepared them to return to school with stronger social-emotional skills and new knowledge about college and careers. Students rated their experiences in summer programs highly, with the following results:  

Image conveys student experiences participating in DEEL-funded summer programs. Of 1,059 students: 83% felt more prepared for school in the fall after participating in their program; 89% reported growth across 21st-century skills, communication, creativity, and critical thinking; 93% enjoyed their summer program; 84% agreed there are adults in the program that share their cultural background; 85% reported growth in social-emotional skills like self-awareness, confidenc, and self-advocacy; 87% of students in college & career (CCR) programs reported growth in CCR knowledge and confidence; 90% agreed they could really be themselves in their program.

Partnerships between schools and community-based organizations support K-12 students’ pandemic recovery and successful transitions to the new school year. The Good Foot Arts Collective co-designed their summer 2022 programs with teachers at Franklin and Rainier Beach to prepare rising 9th graders to enter high school confidently and ready to learn. Programs provided activities centered in leadership development, violence prevention, healthy relationships, and creative self-expression. Upon completion of the summer program, one Good Foot Arts Collective youth shared, “I learned a lot about how to maintain and control money, how I can be more respectful and social, and how people around you can help you more then you know it.”  

Beyond the K-12 Summer Enhancement funding made available through this year’s Request for Investment process, DEEL has additional summer learning investments that span the education continuum from preschool through postsecondary. This June, for the third consecutive summer, Seattle Preschool Program students will have access to summer extension providing additional opportunities for social and academic preparedness as children get ready to enter the K-12 system. Many of DEEL’s School-based investments (SBI) schools host their own summer programs to meet the unique needs of their students or choose to use levy funds to provide programming through community-based organizations. Incoming Seattle Promise scholars have the option to participate in free math and English courses at Seattle Colleges to prepare for a strong start to fall quarter and make the most of their scholarship. Providing these additional opportunities for students to learn, explore, and connect with their peers is an important strategy for student success. 

Applications for DEEL’s 2023 Summer Learning Enhancement Grants Open March 6, 2023  

Applications for Summer Learning Enhancement funds open March 6 for programs occurring July through August 2023. Up to $1 million is available to support expand or enhance existing academic and enrichment programs for Seattle K-12 students. Community-based organizations serving youth disproportionately impacted by systemic inequities in education are eligible to apply. Visit DEEL’s website to learn more and apply and sign up for DEEL’s education funding opportunities email list to get updates delivered to your inbox.