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Partner Spotlight: NSLA

July 24th, 2016

This month, we talk to an essential community schools partner, NSLA, National Summer Learning Association, about their work to support summer learning. Rachel Gwaltney, Director of Policy & Partnerships at the NSLA, discusses how community schools are an essential strategy for summer learning by leveraging resources for students to combat summer slide. In addition, learn about NSLA's National Summer Learning Day, which provides an opportunity for advocating for summer learning initiatives. 


1. Can you explain the overall mission of the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA)? 
NSLA’s vision is that all children and youth have access to high-quality summer learning experiences to help them succeed in college, career and life. Our mission is to convince, connect, and equip providers, education leaders, families, and communities to deliver high-quality summer learning opportunities to our nation’s children and youth that help close the achievement gap and support healthy development.
2. What milestones has National Summer Learning Association already reached or is currently moving towards?
NSLA has elevated core academic research on summer learning loss and other summer opportunity gaps into a national issue. It has become common knowledge that low-income youth lose two to three months in reading achievement while their higher-income peers make slight gains. And, most youth lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in math skills in the summer. Year after year, these losses accumulate, so that by fifth grade, cumulative years of summer learning loss can leave low-income students 2.5 to three years behind their peers. We know that nationally, about one-third of youth participate in a summer learning opportunity, and that barriers like cost, transportation, and lack of information about available resources prevent many others from participating. 
NSLA’s work focuses on three core activities to  increase the number of youth who access summer opportunities for learning, healthy activity, employment and more in communities across the country: 
Recognizing and disseminating what works in summer learning.
Offering expertise and support for programs and communities to strengthen and expand summer learning opportunities.
Convening leaders and advocating for summer learning as a solution for equity and excellence in education.
3. How do the National Summer Learning Association’s principles tie into the Community School’s principles and philosophy? How do you see your work fitting into ours?
The services provided by community schools outside of the school year are just as critical as what happens in the classroom. During the summer, community schools keep students safe, healthy, and learning with access to academics, enrichment activities, subsidized meals, and other services that low-income youth typically lose access to over the summer months. By leveraging both school-based capital resources and the expertise and capacity of external partners, community schools make the most of summer opportunities and maximize the use of resources in a local community. For low-income students, access to these opportunities in the summer is critical to their long-term success, in school and beyond.

4. What are some exciting things coming up for National Summer Learning Association (i.e., events, publications)?
July 14 2016, is National Summer Learning Day! Each year, NSLA and its national network of partners join together for a national advocacy day to elevate the importance of keeping kids learning, healthy and safe every summer. NSLA provides resources for communities to support their coordinated summer efforts, and resources for families to help keep kids learning at home during the summer.
NSLA is partnering with White House on the Summer Opportunity Project, an unprecedented multi-agency, initiative designed to give young people access to their ‘First Job,’ and encourage investment in programs supporting summer learning and meals for America’s young people in the summer. 
Through a multi-year effort launched in February 2016, we will challenge cities, towns and counties to commit to providing a summer learning opportunity and summer meals to every young person in their community who qualifies for free and reduced price meals by 2020.  NSLA will highlight communities that are leading the way with creative and effective community-wide summer learning initiatives and empower more cities to keep all young people safe, healthy and engaged in learning by brokering resources and spreading best practices.
Communities are opting in to this project now, and we are excited to see these communities increase the number of summer learning, meals, and jobs opportunities over the next several years. 

5. Finally, what is the most exciting thing about working at the National Summer Learning Association? 
What could be more fun than thinking about summer all year-round?! While we have so much to do to improve access to these opportunities for youth who need them the most, NSLA leads an incredible network of partners, programs, policymakers, and other community stakeholders who are all dedicated to improving access to and quality of summer opportunities. And, we know it is working. Research has proven that high-quality summer activities improve educational and other life outcomes for young people. We are excited to help even more communities tap into their local expertise and leverage new and existing resources to keep kids learning all year long!


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