The Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative (HSLI) was founded in 2006 when Hasbro Toys Inc. requested to shift its annual United Way gift to a targeted project that would produce positive outcomes for youth. This coincided with the releasing of an important research report, “The Learning Season: The Untapped Power of Summer to Advance Student Achievement.” HSLI began that summer, and served 16 programs and 1,200 youth. By 2010, it had grown to 45 programs and 2,300 youth.
There is a common notion that summer is a carefree time for children, filled with time to play outdoors, go to summer camp and on family trips. However, for many children summer is a time when they lack access to adult supervision, healthy meals and stimulating learning experiences. Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do (Duffett et al, 2004). Most children, particularly children at high risk of obesity, gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school during summer break (Von Hippel et al, 2007). More than half of the achievement gap between lower-and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities (Alexander et al, 2007).
Summer effect on student achievement is not a new area of research. In fact, summer effect has been studied for nearly a century (Carey, 1997). Over that period of time, the studies yield two important findings: (a) that student learning declines or remains stagnant during the summer months and (b) that the magnitude of change differs by socioeconomic status (Malach and Rutter, 2003). Research psychologist Gerald Bracey reports that one study found that the “volume of summer reading was the best predictor of summer loss or gain.” Therefore, reading is a practice that must be engaged in by all children on a daily basis during the summer.
Research psychologist Gerald Bracey writes that the seven-month reading gap between low and middle income second graders becomes a two year and seven month gap by the end of sixth grade (Bracey, 2002). Springfield and Holyoke are facing a number of challenges, with 75% children low-income, 80% African-American, high proportions of children whose first language is not English (24% in Springfield and 51% in Holyoke), and graduation rates at 50%. Springfield also has 10 of the state’s 30 non-performing schools. Given these numbers, it is critical for out-of-school time programs to lend a hand in closing the achievement gap.
HSLI is a systems-change effort in Western Massachusetts designed to change the way summer programs operate, to increase summer learning for low-income children and youth. The Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative has developed a national award-winning model, recognized by the National Summer Learning Association in 2009 with an Excellence award for producing positive outcomes for low-income youth in stemming summer reading loss. The initiative provides community and school-based programs with quality enhancements, including engaging experiential curriculum, reading specialists and curriculum specialists, training, and a focus on quality improvement. The HSLI Summer Fund also provides scholarships to increase access to programs for children and to stipend Teen Apprentices.
Table One: Massachusetts DESE school profiles 2010-2011.
|Communities||# Youth||Low Income||Limited English Proficient||Special Education||Graduation Rate||3rd Grade Reading
Need improvement or failing on MCAS
|8th Grade ELA
Need improvement or failing on MCAS