Mike English, Executive Director at Turn the Page KC
The 2018 National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) Annual Conference, Summer Changes Everything™, will take place in downtown Kansas City, MO, November 12-14. November is a great time to visit Kansas City! The temperature will be in the 60s, the leaves on the trees will be a combination of red, gold, and orange, and the smell of BBQ will be in the air. Fall is Kansas City’s best season, and a good time to start thinking about summer.
Kansas City, MO is home to about 500,000 people and encompasses a relatively large geographic area that includes parts of fifteen different school districts and four counties. The conference will take place in the heart of downtown Kansas City, just steps from a free streetcar that will take you north or south so that you can easily visit different neighborhoods, museums, and restaurants.
Visiting Kansas City will also give you the chance to visit with our local summer learning practitioners. Because our city includes great diversity and complex school district boundaries, summer requires a lot of planning, coordination, and collaboration. Kansas City libraries, nonprofits, and school systems collaborate each year to provide a system of opportunities for school-aged children. Within this system, they have implemented a plethora of approaches to summer learning. Local evaluations show that our city is successfully eliminating the summer slide with a combination of three approaches: (1) an extended school year, (2) school district/nonprofit partnerships that serve low-income students, and (3) expansive library summer programming.
At two out of the twenty-one elementary schools in the North Kansas City School District, the school year has been extended by 31 days. Prior to the extended school year, these two elementary schools had been performing within the bottom five of the district’s twenty-one schools. These two schools are now proudly in the top five.
Kansas City’s urban core is served by the Kansas Public School District. This district contracts with local nonprofits to incorporate math, reading, and science instruction into their summer programs. These partnerships have enabled the district to keep thousands of additional students learning during the summer.
Finally, kids everywhere have the opportunity to keep learning by participating in library summer reading programs. Kansas City’s two public library systems have aggressively recruited students to participate in summer reading challenges, and have partnered with local school districts to evaluate the impact of these programs on student achievement. In a remarkable study commissioned by the Mid-Continent Public Library, they found that participation in the library’s summer reading program is associated with increased reading scores between spring and fall.
Local context is important when considering whether a particularly summer learning program or activity will work and Kansas City is a great testing ground for different approaches because our city is so diverse. At Turn the Page KC, we provide supplemental support to many different summer learning programs. This support includes full-time reading tutors, volunteers, free books, and an annual summer reading celebration. We also convene our local summer learning community often in order to share data, figure out ways to serve more kids, and learn from one another.
If the opportunity to enjoy great weather, BBQ, and good company isn’t enough, there is one more reason to visit in mid-November. Lady Gaga will be performing at Kansas City’s Sprint Center on November 15th, the day after the conference ends. See you in November!