Developing a Plan for Sustainability
THE WALLACE FOUNDATION’S NATIONAL SUMMER LEARNING PROJECT
Since 2011, The Learning Agenda has been a key partner to The Wallace Foundation in support of its National Summer Learning Project (NSLP). The NSLP is the largest effort to date to understand whether and how large-scale, voluntary summer learning programs led by urban public schools and their partners can benefit children. TLA leads a number of efforts important to the success of the initiative – including facilitating a professional learning community of district and city partners from the five collaborating districts – Boston, Dallas, Duval County, Pittsburgh and Rochester – and developing a summer planning toolkit to share knowledge accumulated through the initiative.
As the project draws to completion, the question of how to sustain quality summer learning programs within school districts and cities is paramount. Wallace engaged TLA to guide and support citywide planning processes to identify the actions – in addition to fundraising – necessary to ensure the sustainability of high-quality summer learning opportunities.
The Learning Agenda Approach
Pulling from years of experience developing, evaluating and making the case for summer learning programs, TLA developed a step-by-step process to guide districts and their city partners in creating their own, personalized, broadly-supported action plans for sustainability. The process was designed to be completed over time, in this case over the course of two years, and with input from key stakeholders. Project leads were asked to engage local partners in a series of conversations and activities to identify key stakeholders and strategies for engagement, understand alignment between summer learning and other local priorities, and analyze the local policy environment, among other things. The process resulted in a product that is an actionable, living guide for the district and its partners.
TLA drafted easy-to-follow instructions for pulling together information at each step, identifying possible sources for information, guiding questions, and examples of approaches to help prompt local thinking. Via monthly calls, TLA, along with a team from Wallace, provided individualized technical assistance to help districts and partners improve instructional and program quality and sustain summer progress.
The sustainability planning process fueled ongoing efforts to improve and prioritize summer learning in our partner communities. Districts and partners broadened community engagement in summer learning, and provided more and higher-quality summer learning opportunities for young people:
Boston exceeded its 2016 goal – advocated by the mayor’s office – to engage 10,000 young people in summer learning programs offered by 100 community partners, who all participate in a shared data collaborative;
Dallas expanded its City of Learning initiative in 2016, engaging nearly 25,000 young people in a variety of summer experiences offered by many community partners and business, such as Dallas Love Field;
Pittsburgh launched Summer 16: Dream! Explore! Do! with the support of the county executive, mayor, school district and a variety of community partners, and exceeded its goal to serve 16,000 young people in summer 2016 via high quality summer learning experiences; and
Rochester streamlined and more fully integrated summer learning into the fabric of the district and community, resulting in continued commitment to summer learning through leadership transitions.