The Summer Learning Project is a collaboration between Boston Public Schools (BPS), Boston After School and Beyond, and Tenacity designed to prevent summer learning loss in rising 4th graders. The five week English Language Arts, Mathematics and fitness enrichment program served 80 BPS students last summer. The program, which ran five days a week, six hours per day, was held at four BPS schools. Two locations are our partner schools, the Dever/ McCormack Lower School and Donald McKay School, and therefore served as a feeder program for Tenacity’s Elementary School Program which teaches tennis and fitness to 4th and 5th graders. The other two locations were the Guild School and the Otis School.
Each day combined three hours of academics with three hours of tennis and fitness. During the classroom hours, students practiced math, read books, and wrote and published their own books. The readings focused eating well and the positive impact of exercise and tennis. During the physical fitness hours, students enjoyed tennis lessons and games. Parents, principals and teachers attended a final celebration where the students presented the books they had created during their five week program.
Tenacity partnered with Haley House in Roxbury where students got hands on experience in the kitchen making health snacks and easy meals. They created their own cookbooks with recipes they had learned during the cooking classes.
The results from our Middle School Academy (MSA) students’ MCAS scores for the previous school year are in, and they are impressive!In English Language Arts test results, Tenacity Middle School Academy students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades are outperforming their classmates both in our five Boston Public Schools (BPS) partner schools as well as across the City.Tenacity Middle School Academy is our core, intensive after-school or integrated school-day program (depending on the partner school) that combines literacy, life-skills, tennis instruction, fitness, and family engagement. Our partner schools are the Dever-McCormack, the Jackson-Mann, the Washington Irving, the Lilla G. Frederick, and the Mario Umana.MSA is critical to enabling students to acquire the knowledge, confidence, and skills necessary for ongoing academic success in high school and college. Tenacity’s impact in middle school ultimately demonstrates success in enabling students to proceed along the Pathway to Post-Secondary Success.During our 13+ years offering the program, we have continually improved upon the curriculum we offer to our kids by establishing closer relationships with the principals, faculty, and the families at each partner school, resulting in a more relevant and effective program.The current MCAS results show a strong student growth percentile* of Tenacity program kids in all grade levels. Tenacity Middle School Academy student outcome highlights based on spring 2012 English Language Arts MCAS results:
*35% greater student proficiency as compared to their peers by 8th grade.
*20% greater student growth as compared to their peers by 8th grade.
*Tenacity 8th graders saw a 40% improvement on ELA proficiency scoring from 7th grade as compared to a 17% improvement among their peers in the district as a whole.
*Tenacity 8th graders saw a 28% greater ELA growth from 7th grade as compared to a 4% growth among their peers in the district as a whole.Tenacity anticipates continued impressive results.
About a dozen fourth graders filed anxiously into the room used as both a gym and cafeteria last Wednesday at the Paul A. Dever School where mats, bowls and food had been set out on tables in preparation for a nutritional cooking class. As the students chatted excitedly about the previous week’s burritos and smoothies, Haley House Cafe chef Vanessa Labranche introduced different fruits and vegetables before the students’ next endeavor – fruit with gingerbread dip and hummus ‘boats’ with vegetables.
One student even brought her own apron to school for the activity.
For this five-week summer program, the Dever School partnered with ‘Tenacity’, a Boston-based non-profit organization dedicated to helping city kids develop skills, build character and find pathways to excellence by playing tennis and engaging in academics over summer break.
The Dever School is one of 40 Boston Public Schools partnering with community groups like Tenacity during the summer. These partnerships are facilitated by Boston After School and Beyond, a public-private partnership dedicated to supporting, strengthening and expanding Boston’s after-school sector.
There are about 23 fourth graders participating in the summer program at the Dever School. These students are chosen from the middle of the academic spectrum, said Melissa Partridge, a Special Assistant in the Office of Innovation, Partnership and Development for the BPS. The school’s principal works with the school district and Boston After School in Beyond to find the students who would most benefit from the program.
“We really try to find the students that are kind of in the middle of the pack that could either slip, or with some attention, be helped, and [with] continuation of academics through the summer may even progress,” Partridge said. “There’s such a gaping hole for the kids in the middle, so we find that this type of program really works with the integration of the experience and the academics.”
David McAuley, the project manager for Boston After School and Beyond, said Tenacity had already been involved with the Dever School and its upper school, the McCormack Middle School, so he just needed to bring the partnership to the next level.
“It’s almost like a pipeline for the students,” McAuley said. “These [students] are going into the fourth grade, they’re going to work with Tenacity during the school year, and then as they go into middle school, they’ll also have Tenacity there to support them too.”
Ned Eames, the president and founder of Tenacity, is excited about the partnership with the Dever and McCormack schools since the students can now start early on a pathway Tenacity has fostered from elementary and middle school to college. Eames said Tenacity has a very intensive middle school academy that supports the journey to high school and beyond. The program has made it a goal for 75 percent of the students involved in the pathway to complete post-secondary pursuit.
“We can come into the school and provide resources in the form of programs that are valuable to the school, valuable to the students, are in line with the learning goals of the schools, and are programs that the school is not able to provide themselves,” Eames said.
Site Director Geoff Rose said the focus is on fourth graders for this summer program since the program is funded in part by the Wallace Foundation, which is conducting a national study to gauge summer learning loss in fourth graders. The BPS was one of six school districts chosen for this study by the foundation. This is the second year the summer program has been running, and Rose said an ‘ACT’ (achieve, connect, thrive) philosophy is a central component.
“Our whole mindset of this program is to try to get the kids actively thinking and actively working,” Rose said. “Our big question that we’re trying to push forward throughout the whole summer is ‘How does what you do with your body affect your brain?’”
On four of the five Wednesdays, two groups of about a dozen fourth graders are spending two weeks each learning how to cook nutritious snacks. The group who does not spend the afternoon cooking learns how to play games and sports outside. Tenacity recruited Roxbury’s Haley House Cafe’s program ‘Take Back the Kitchen’ (TBK) to help with the cooking projects.
TBK Program Manager Robin Saunders said the mission of the program, which has been around for seven years and has worked with Tenacity in the past, is to educate youth and their families about healthy eating and cooking options and introduce sustainable food systems. This is the first year it has worked with the Dever School.
“It’s just like a perfect match,” Saunders said. “We love the younger aged kids . . . They’re very eager.” Saunders said her favorite thing about working with the Dever students is their honesty and curiosity, but the most challenging thing is the amount of energy kids that age have – “unlimited energy” according to Saunders. She said the menu is chosen by what foods the chefs see are in season and what they think may be interesting for the kids.
“We have hundreds of recipes that we’ve used over the years that we have, so I think just something that’s fun and engages kids,” Saunders said.
Nine-year-old Myrical Bone, a Dever student, said she uses the cooking skills learned at school when she goes home.
“You get to cook, play games and you get to learn more so you can be ready for the next grade,” Bone said.
Fellow classmate Raine Cooper, 9, dubbed the ‘Emeril Lagasse’ of the previous week’s burrito cooking class by Rose, said he feels more prepared for the school year because of the program’s focus on English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. Still, his favorite summer activities are outside the classroom.“The reason why I like it is because it gets me energized. . . and I learn how to play new [sports],” Cooper said.
The program focuses on academics in the morning, using an ELA and Math curriculum adopted from the Wallace Foundation. The students also take field trips to different Boston sites and learn physical fitness activities during the afternoon.
“The ELA program that was chosen? Rave reviews,” Partridge said. “To the point that teachers are begging for the district to adopt it as a district-wide program. . . It’s been this really cool five-week incubator to try out some of these things that you don’t get to do necessarily.”
The academics component is taught by Dever teachers, one of whom will be teaching some of the students in the fourth grade in the fall. Partridge said the teachers elected to do the summer program are very passionate about their jobs and supportive of the students’ learning.
According to Rose, this helps foster good student-teacher and teacher-parent relationships even before the school year begins. Many behavioral issues are also addressed during the summer, as Rose said the students are constantly working on developing patience and self-control skills.
“As we’ve seen, they’re turning 10, but they’re throwing temper tantrums of two-year-olds,” Rose said. Rose said he loves the philosophy of the program. As a whole, he regards it as a great opportunity for the students as the wellness of the whole student is addressed, not just the academic wellness.
“It’s been a great collaborative effort,” Rose said. “I’ve been impressed with Boston’s getting a bunch of different partners on board. One of the best things of this program is giving these kids opportunities they wouldn’t normally get.”
Two specially-selected Tenacity Pathway students, Yves Singletary and Catherine Ashley, and President Ned Eames, traveled to Washington, D.C. in May, to attend the first-ever USTA Advocacy Days. Hosted by the USTA, this three-day series of meetings highlighted the positive effects of tennis as the sport of opportunity for youth –and the USTA’s engagement in schools, municipalities, and more, throughout the country – all in an effort to enlighten U.S. Senators and Congressmen regarding the opportunity for increased support for programs that deliver high quality youth tennis.
Billie Jean King was a featured speaker at the National PressClub, promoting the benefits of health and fitness that tennis offers to players of all ages. She shared the delivery chain of tennis programs offered nationwide, including after school, at public parks, and on military bases,where wheelchair tennis is being taught to veterans in the new Wounded Warriors program.
The three-day affair included meetings in Congress, and even at the White House, where many tennis legends helped convey the breadth of the game while advocating for more public/private partnerships. USTA representatives and program partners like Tenacity, on hand from nearly every US Congressional District, gave presentations to their respective elected officials’ staffs, highlighting among other tennis activities the volume of each district’s number of NJTLs (National Junior Tennis and Learning organizations), number of kids served, and number of free USTA memberships given to 10-and-under youth.
As the largest NJTL program delivery organization in New England and the second biggest nationally, Tenacity was invited to participate in six congressional visits to share the value of our youth programming while also promoting additional youth tennis programming that takes place in New England. Yves Singletary, a Tenacity Alumnus, now a Mass. Promise Fellow at the City of Brockton’s Mayoral office, and Catherine Ashley, a Tenacity Pathway high school student currently attending Beacon Academy, met with staffs of Senators Kerry and Brown and U.S. Representative Capuano to share their personal successes thanks to Tenacity. Along with Ned, they met several tennis legends, including the great Stan Smith.
Jon Vegosen - USTA Chairman and President, Barry Ford -USTA Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy, Todd Martin- Former World #4 Professional Tennis Player and USTA Board Member, and Ned Eames were treated to an afternoon tour of the Pentagon with an introduction to top-brass including a U.S. Admiral.
As Tenacity settles into its second decade of delivering high quality tennis and literacy-based urban youth development programs, we are honored to be engaging with the USTA and top lawmakers in our nation on the national policies that affect the Boston and Worcester youth we serve.
Tenacity received a boost to its youth offering last summer when specially selected to team up with Boston Public Schools and Boston After School & Beyond on a pilot program funded by The Wallace Foundation for rising fourth graders in Boston.
The Wallace Foundation, which works to better the lives of children through improvements in public education, focuses on enrichment programs that offer low-performing students access to better academics.
Being selected by Wallace for the Summer Learning Project was “a huge vote of confidence in what we are doing,” explained Ned Eames, President & Founder of Tenacity. “We are focusing our efforts in the right places,” he continued, “opening up Tenacity to fourth and fifth graders to get them prepared for the rigors of middle school.
Tenacity’s new Capacity Building Plan, The Next Chapter, now includes an Elementary Program for 4th & 5th Graders, introducing students and their families to Tenacity’s overall Pathway to Excellence, in preparation for the Middle School Academy. “When BPS contacted us about this pilot, we knew we had a perfect match,” added Eames.
The curriculum, much like what Tenacity and BPS are already doing in the Middle School Academy, was designed specifically for rising fourth graders, with integrated academic enrichment components. In the morning, after a healthy breakfast offered to all123 selected students, the focus was on improving math, reading and writing skills. After lunch, students enjoyed physical fitness and tennis games that integrated the math facts and vocabulary introduced each morning.
Even the literary topics were an integrated part of the program. Students read short stories about tennis greats Billie Jean King and Arthur Ashe and biographies of both Williams sisters. They finished with a novel, Tennis Trophy Mystery, by Cam Jansen, a well known children’s mystery writer.
The goals: combat summer learning loss so students returning to school in the fall are grade-ready; introduce rising fourth graders to the Tenacity Pathway, which begins in fourth grade and continues through college or other post-high school endeavors; and create and strengthen our school-community partnerships to serve high-need students throughout the learning day and all year long.
The six-week program was delivered on weekdays at five BPS schools, with Fridays reserved for field trips. The kids visited the NE Aquarium, The Science Museum and enjoyed a party at Constitution Beach on the final day with family members, program staff and school principals.
The staff, comprised of BPS teachers and Tenacity tennis instructors, met weekly to ensure the optimal integration of academics and sports for the students. An added complement to the program, a social-emotional component, was delivered under the advisement of Assoc. Professor at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Gil G. Noam. Students were encouraged to share personal challenges while the staff was trained to listen and respond with problem solving techniques.
The successful endeavor may lead to three additional summers of the program funded by The Wallace Foundation. Testing results of our efforts will be available by year’s end. Tenacity is grateful to The Wallace Foundation, BPS and Boston After School & Beyond for teaming with Tenacity.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.