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Walsh, Chang Aim To Boost Enrollment In Boston's Summer Learning Programs

With more than 6,500 Boston students signed up to participate in 78 summer learning programs this year, city officials announced Monday that they want to boost those numbers to 10,000 students and 100 programs over the next two years.

Mayor Marty Walsh joined Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang and other city officials beneath the morning sun on the tennis courts of Dorchester's Sportsmen's Tennis and Enrichment Center Monday to celebrate the summer learning initiative known as the Boston Summer Learning Project.

Officials lauded the program’s educational benefits and discussed goals for its expansion, while also calling for increased funding from private financiers.

First launched in 2010, the project features summer programs in diverse settings around the city — including Sportsmen's, the Franklin Park Zoo, the city’s nature preserves, Harbor Islands and college campuses.

The project, which focuses on skill-building in addition to academics, received nearly $2 million in private funding this year.

Christopher Smith, executive director of Boston After School & Beyond, said the initiative evolved from a simple question.

"What would happen if we gave kids and their teachers access to the city's great resources and combined learning enrichment? Could kids have fun while they're learning?" Smith said.

The purpose of the program is two-fold: to provide students with a summer full of fun, educational opportunities and to study how summer learning affects social development and academic performance at school.

"To create a system that guarantees a vibrant, whole-child education beyond the walls of the classroom, it's going to require systems to be created," Superintendent Chang said. "A system requires data tracking."

The Boston Summer Learning Project is part of a national study, funded by the Wallace Foundation. Program quality and student skill development will be assessed at each site. Research shows that a lack of access to summer programs can contribute to persistent achievement gaps between low-income students and their peers.

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