The connection is clear: Closing persistent achievement gaps between advantaged and less-advantaged students will require paying much more attention to what happens in the hours after school and over the summer. Those are the moments when higher-income children are more likely to gain enrichment — and expand their learning — through activities like music lessons, sleep-away camps, coding clubs, or leadership workshops.
That kind of expansive out-of-school learning should be an entitlement for all young people, says former Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville. But school districts, already overstretched, can’t provide those opportunities on their own.
For the past decade, Providence, Rhode Island, has been spearheading an innovative approach: Making afterschool and summer learning a citywide priority, with cross-sector investment and commitment from the mayor’s office, local nonprofits, and the school district. And the efforts are working. The city has developed extensive afterschool programming for middle school students and begun to create pathways from those programs to high school coursework to summer employment. In the past two years, Providence has also expanded its summer learning program from four weeks to five and increased the number of slots from 500 to 850, with a goal of doubling that number to 1700 in the next four years.