Birmingham Summer INSTITUTe
Underachievement among Birmingham’s urban students is a pressing and urgent community problem. According to the City Health Dashboard, only 14.3% of third graders in the Birmingham City School System are reading at grade level.
During the summer of 2019, BSI students averaged 9 months growth in math and 10 months growth in reading. Students advanced as if they’d been in school for a year in math and over a year in reading!
Two articles published since February 2018 spotlight the critical importance of BSI. The first, in the New York Times, demonstrates how powerfully discrimination still holds back African Americans, especially males (“Extensive Data Show Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys”). The second, from The Nonprofit Quarterly, shows not only that deep poverty persists 9 years after the recession but demonstrates that while there is huge expansion in the number of jobs held by college graduates- almost 12 million- jobs held by those with only a high-school diploma, or less, retracted by almost 3 million (“The World Class Poverty in America’s Booming Economy”).
A 2016 Hechinger Report article connects the dots. It highlights a causal relationship between summer learning in elementary school and matriculation to college (“Summer Learning Loss widens the achievement gap. Here’s how to change that”). This is at least partly because summer learning loss is cumulative. “By fifth grade, summer learning loss can leave low-income students up to three years behind their peers” (Whitaker, 2016). Three years! Interventions that come during high school, while important, cannot make up for the learning loss that accumulates before high school.
Mission and Vision:
BSI empowers students from underserved populations to explore their own identities and become agents of change in their schools, communities, and beyond through academic excellence, exposure to enriching activities, and social and emotional development. Our vision is to be a model learning community inspiring the love of learning, the realization of internal power, and the belief that all students can achieve greatness.
BSI reverses summer learning loss, returning most students to school in the fall well ahead of where they were in the spring in both reading and math. The full-day, seven-week program delivers intensive math and reading classes with a ratio of one certified teacher to no more than 15 students. Using Teaching Fellows for small group work, we reduce the ratio even more. We collaborate with The University of Alabama at Birmingham faculty and Birmingham-Southern College faculty using research-based methods.
While academics are BSI’s primary focus, we also advance students’ character education through an innovative SEL curriculum. Coaching in social awareness, conflict resolution, and self management is infused into BSI activities. BSI also impacts student health through daily physical fitness and wellness classes. BSI broadens students’ exposure through a wealth of high-quality, high-interest, enrichment activities, and engaging field trips.