Each summer for the last 15 years, kids from the Red Bank area of New Jersey (where 13 percent of families live below the poverty line) take a short bus ride to Rumson, N.J. (where 4 percent of families live below the poverty line) to go to summer camp at the Rumson Country Day School.
The purpose: Break the summer slide.
Summer learning loss has been pegged as a major factor in the achievement gap between low-income students and their higher-income peers. (Read up on that research in our interview with Karl Alexander.) Summer vacation itself was first recognized as a problematic period of brain drain in 1906, according to Time. But luckily it’s a problem that seems to have one simple solution in summer enrichment camps.
The results at Horizons, for instance, are hard to ignore.
On average, students who are below grade level in reading and math gain three months in those subjects, according to Horizons. Ninety-five percent of their alums go on to college, 82 percent return to the program each year, and all of the kids learn to swim. A central philsophy of Horizons is that teaching kids to swim increases their self-confidence in addition to giving them an important life skill. Horizons programs run in 10 states and serve 2,000 kids each year – with plans to double that number in the next five years.
“I just think it’s the right thing to do,” said Chad Small, head of Rumson Country Day School. “Our community is very blessed. I just think we’ve got to remember we’re all in this together.”
The program does come with a price tag, of course. Horizons families pay no more than $50 per student, so the rest of the operating budget (which Horizons says is about $300,000 a year) comes through fundraising.
“There’s always a challenge around funding,” said Robin Scheman, president of the Horizons Board at Rumson and a parent at Rumson Country Day School. “We raise all of our own money and we take – by design – no government funding.”
But it’s a small price to pay relative to the benefits.
“Do it, take the plunge,” Scheman said. “It’s so worth doing and we so need to do things like this to make education - and good education - accessible to all kinds of kids.”
So, what does such a utopian educational community look like? Watch the video above.
All statements and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors, and not of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or NBC News.