Leveling the Playing Field
Chris Brodnan, Regional Program Director, Horizons Atlanta
As summertime comes to an end and students return to the classroom, many children enter the school year much farther behind academically than when they left just a few months ago. This phenomenon, known as the “summer slide”, can cause children to lose academic ground, often up to three months of reading and math skills EACH summer. Research suggests the majority of the achievement gap is attributable to summer learning loss. In fact, by third grade, students from lower-income families are often grade levels behind their peers. Due to financial constraints and lack of access, some students do not get a chance to participate in enriching, constructive activities during the summer.
Horizons Atlanta exists to transform the lives of children and families by providing tuition-free, high-quality summer learning programs to low-income students in need of academic support. Our core program model serves students from the summer after Kindergarten through the summer after 8th grade (rising 1st-9th graders), with an emphasis on reading, math, STEM and project-based learning. Every student also learns to swim! Over each six-week summer session, Horizons students gain an average of two to three months of progress in reading and math – not just reversing the typical “summer slide,” but sending students back to school weeks ahead of where they left in May. As one teacher says, “I had a student first come to us unable to spell her name and after one summer with us, she is a reader and her confidence level is much higher.”
In 2018, Horizons Atlanta operated at nine locations serving approximately 820 students across metro-Atlanta. Our students – all of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch, come from public schools and are in need of academic support.
And we don’t just stop after the summer. Like our new partner, The Junior League of Atlanta (JLA), Horizons Atlanta seeks to break the cycle of generational poverty through an emphasis on education and connecting with families to provide the additional support they need. We look forward to engaging JLA volunteers in our work beyond the summer months, specifically helping us to launch and enhance our school year supports at Horizons sites all over Metro Atlanta. JLA is a leader and trailblazer in advocacy work, and we aim to join forces by further educating the wider Atlanta community about the role of summer learning in supporting students and their families to create thriving communities. Together, we can reach more students to narrow the achievement gap and empower children and families across Atlanta.