New RAND Study Shows BellXcel Boosts Teacher Practices Throughout the School Year – a Statistically Significant Finding!
Summer can be a good time to boost teacher practices Opportunities for practicing student-centered skills and developmental feedback more critical than ever Ninety-nine percent of teachers engaged in some type of summer professional learning activities in 2019 and applied relevant strategies and tools to improve their school year practices. Yet, according to a first-ever national survey of teachers’ summer professional learning highlighted in a recent RAND Corporation study, opportunities for developmental feedback as part of summer professional learning were uncommon. On the heels of the COVID-19 crisis and extended school closures, access to high-quality professional learning experiences for teachers is more critical than ever. RAND surveyed K-12 teachers nationally through its American Teacher Panel (ATP) and studied BellXcel Summer (BXS), an evidence-based summer program model that provides academic instruction, rooted in social and emotional learning (SEL), to students and professional learning opportunities for teachers. The study explored the national context of professional learning, including teacher perceptions of their experiences, and investigated how BXS teacher experiences compare with those in other programs across the country. The research evidence is clear that summer is a prime opportunity for children to strengthen academic and social and emotional skills through high-quality, evidence-based programs. Study co-author, Elizabeth D. Steiner, a policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization, commented, “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequities that affect students’ ability to learn and nearly all students have been affected by school closures. Our survey of teachers found those employed in summer programs that provide academic instruction could also improve in certain classroom practices during the school year – particularly strategies to support students’ SEL and positive behavior management.” BellXcel CEO Lauren Gilbert, Ed.D, a former educator and school administrator, remarked, “Summer programs are more critical than ever to mitigate learning loss, and this study clearly demonstrates that teachers need to be part of that catch-up initiative. Programs such as those powered by BXS offer teachers powerful, on-the-job professional development opportunities to freely explore and expand their student-centered instruction skills and practices - including positive behavior management and social and emotional learning, without the pressures and constraints of the school year.” Academic summer programs for students—run by school districts and community-based youth development organizations alike—can incorporate teacher professional learning into their own summer programs. The findings in this study can help school leaders and program administrators to make teacher professional learning an intentional piece of their programs and focus on strategies that teachers can use during the school year. Key Findings: Nationally, 99 percent of teachers participated in one or more professional learning activities over the summer and believed that they were relevant, helpful for improving instructional practice, and just as useful as other activities the teachers’ schools and districts provided. However, opportunities to receive developmental feedback (i.e., feedback for the purpose of developing instructional skills) about instruction in the summer were uncommon. Teaching in an academic-focused summer program may provide teachers nationally with opportunities—such as coaching and observations—to receive developmental feedback about instruction and to practice and improve in certain classroom practices. According to teachers, BellXcel Summer (BXS), an academic-focused summer program for students that provides professional learning opportunities to its teachers, had a positive and supportive environment that supported their professional learning. BXS teachers reported that the absence of school-year constraints such as testing and curriculum pacing requirements made the use of some student-centered classroom practices easier during the summer than during the school year. BXS teachers were more likely than teachers nationally to report that their summer professional learning experiences helped them improve their use of student-centered practices during the school year. Academic summer programs may provide unique professional learning opportunities for teachers to practice and improve their use of student-centered classroom practices—particularly positive behavior management and promoting social and emotional learning for students. BXS provided useful insights into the features of academic summer programs that may facilitate teachers’ professional learning, such as the absence of school-year constraints paired with positive and supportive teaching environments.More
Educators Say Summer is an Excellent Opportunity to Polish Skills and Grow in their Careers
Scholars are not the only ones benefitting from YMCA of Greater San Antonio’s Power Scholar Academy (PSA). In fact, the BellXcel model is driven by the belief that the key to scholar success is educator empowerment. “BellXcel has wonderful resources online and teacher toolkits that we use for a successful summer and in our careers for years to come,” said Bonnie Cavazos, instructional coach, who has served as the school librarian for 15 years, and as a local educator for over 27 years in the San Antonio school district. “We collaborate with each other as educators. We are all colleagues with a common goal.” Educators say the summer program presents an opportunity to learn how to teach other grade levels. It also serves as a dynamic environment for mentoring and networking. Educators are not only connecting and building relationships with students, but with each other, in powerful ways. Younger teachers collaborate with more experienced ones, picking up new skills along the way. Academic instructors also receive support from instructional coaches, who are experienced school teachers, creating a cycle of continuous learning and improvement. Cavazos and Carrol visit all classes throughout the day after testing and data analysis to observe classrooms, speak to scholars, support instruction, or jump in and guide discussion. “Our role is to serve as a supportive pillow," Amber Carroll, instructional coach and elementary teacher, says with a laugh. “We bounce ideas off teachers to make sure things run smoothly. We look at data to see where students should be, and have conversations with teachers to see how we can grow towards success. BellXcel gives us a great scope and sequence for us to follow.” For many educators, the summer program represents an excellent opportunity to polish their skills and grow in their professional careers. “Working with different teachers and students in a different capacity, and gaining experience over the summer, is preparing me for a more effective school year, and a leadership position in the future,” said Carroll, who is nearing her degree to become a certified principal. Educators say the BellXcel-powered summer program also boosts their motivation for teaching as its delivered in a more relaxed environment in smaller group environments, with increased support as compared to the school year. “We’re having fun. We’re engaging,” said Carroll. "We see our class sizes so large during the school year, it’s hard to have that targeted instruction,” said Carroll. "Coming in as a teacher, you don’t have to teach to a test. You don’t have to worry about an end-game. We just want to make sure students get access to the learning they need, where they’re at. It’s a completely different world than teaching in the school year.”More
Susan Crown Exchange Focuses on SEL
Susan Crown Exchange’s support allowed BellXcel to refine its social emotional learning supports for youth and educators. -- For scholars like fourth-grader, Yocelyn, BellXcel provides unique opportunities to shine. As a dual-language learner, Yocelyn began the BellXcel summer program in Montgomery County reluctant to participate and ask questions. After five-weeks of working with supportive and empowered teachers in small-group instruction and team-based enrichment courses, Yocelyn has transformed into a confident leader. She now is the first one to raise her hand to share her perspective during group discussion and is eager to help her peers problem-solve tough concepts and try new things. Recognizing that all learning is social and emotional, Susan Crown Exchange has partnered with BellXcel to help more educators create a positive culture and climate for scholar success. A generous $200,000 grant from Susan Crown Exchange, has supported the evaluation and expansion of BellXcel’s professional development (PD) offerings in social and emotional learning (SEL). In 2019, BellXcel conducted a thorough review of program assessments, field research, and partner needs in SEL. During the COVID-19 crisis, we are now working closely with community partners across the nation to ensure engaging and trauma-informed instruction reach scholars this school year, in the summer, and beyond. Susan Crown Exchange’s continued support in 2020-2021 enables BellXcel to quickly respond to this immediate need and help educators infuse SEL in their classrooms and new remote learning settings.More
Investment Leads to Impact in Washington, D.C.
It’s a bustling summer morning outside of Seaton Elementary School in the historic Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Eager children, led by their parents, stream into the school. They come from different age groups, races and backgrounds, but they share something in common. The children, enrolled in the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington’s school-based Power Scholar Academy (PSA), are all excited to learn. As the K-6 scholars kick off their day, they are greeted with a familiar, endearing smile. “Good morning Ms. Janice!” the scholars exclaim one by one, as they greet Janice Williams in the lobby. With smiles radiating from ear to ear, the enrolled students, known as scholars, then embark on a full day of learning and enrichment at the Y’s summer learning program, powered by BellXcel. Since 2013, the evidence-based summer program has empowered thousands of children through a holistic learning experience that has boosted scholars’ academic and social-emotional skills, as well as their self-confidence. “Every day is a day where you’ll find scholars running to the program because they are excited about what they gain,” says Williams, YMCA of Metropolitan’s Senior Vice President for Program Development. For her local community, Williams is more than a nonprofit administrator. She is a tireless and passionate supporter of expanding afterschool and summer learning for children from under-resourced communities. She has been with the YMCA for nearly 45 years, and with PSA since its inception. “Many of our schools that are in under-resourced communities don't have the opportunity to meet the needs of all of the students that they have identified as struggling students,” she says. “We're able to identify the particular area of challenge for scholars, and really put the resources in place to guide them to be more successful.” “We have been so fortunate to have BellXcel’s support in Washington, D.C. Before, there were camp programs. There was summer school. But there was something missing,” Williams said. “PSA is among the best programs out there because it not only provides opportunity for academic support, it also provides opportunities for scholars to learn new things through enrichment. It's supported by committed educators who want to be a part of a program that allows them to connect and provide young people with the social-emotional learning that is critically needed.” With an educator to scholar ratio of 2 to 24, William says the program’s small group environments are a key differentiator. In each classroom, a certified teacher and teaching assistant lead individual, small group, and whole group exercises, in dynamic learning environments. With the utilization of instructional coaches and other support staff rotating, it is not uncommon to see upwards of three to four educators in a classroom, all working together to provide an exceptional high-touch learning experience. “This kind of learning style really does impact our ability to provide them with the necessary support to thrive,” Williams says. “There is a high value in that child-centered learning. We are also excited about the peer-to-peer learning that the program supports and empowers.” PSA also empowered educators with 21st century instructional skills and strategies they can transmit into the classroom in the school year. Among teachers surveyed, 87 percent said site leaders were highly supportive of educators; 89 percent said teaching in PSA was rewarding, while 80 percent of teachers want to work with the program again. “We are pretty fortunate to be able to have scholars that are receiving something during the course of the summer, as well as educators, who apply their learnings into the classroom in the fall,” says Williams. “The partnership is critical because BellXcel allows the YMCA to present itself to the community with a stamp of excellence. They bring the kind of skills and resources that are going to enhance the school community and allow it to reach the level and the goals that the school has in mind.” Williams says the demand for evidence-based summer learning programs in her community remains high, and advocates for continued support. “I would truly invite any funder to go and visit a site. It is truly something that you have to witness to be able to see what the scholars are receiving and the type of investment that is being made, and having scholars learn, thrive, and really the impact on not only the summer learning, but the true impact that it allows, and the potential of each and every scholar to succeed and excel.” [embed]https://youtu.be/sW6lBeXp9gc[/embed]More
Professional Learning that Leads to Increased Teacher Satisfaction … and Scholar Success!
Q&A with Beth Putnam, Assistant Director, Department of Alternative Education, Saint Paul, MN The mission of the Department of Alternative Education in Saint Paul, Minnesota is to provide focused daytime, extended day, and summer learning opportunities to support student achievement leading to graduation. Power Scholars Academy (PSA) has been a summer learning program at Saint Paul Public Schools for seven years. In your opinion, what distinguishes Power Scholars Academy from summer camps and other programs? Power Scholars Academy offers a unique experience to students in both structure and content. Due to collaborative use of funds, scholars attend more hours and days than in most of our other programs, making it possible to teach core academics in the morning with licensed staff and enrichment, including field trips, in the afternoon with YMCA staff. The number of scholars working with each adult is lower than in most other programs, making differentiated one-to-one and small-group instruction more feasible. The literacy curriculum reflects the racial and cultural identity of students who attend, and data shows it is successful in meeting its intended results. As a bonus, scholars get to take books home. What elements of the PSA program are particularly conducive to the success of scholars and educators? The PSA curriculum, including assessments, supports teachers in knowing exactly what each scholar needs. Staff receive extensive training, materials are high interest, and scholars are able to do interest- and community-based experiential learning in the afternoons—these are all benefits leading to success. It is the perfect opportunity for scholars to stay physically active, maintain their academic skills, and develop social and emotional and leadership skills while learning more about their community, other people, and themselves. How does PSA empower educators during the summer, and is this impact being felt in the school year? Many of our PSA educators come back year after year. Although the school-year curriculum and instruction may be different than what is used for PSA, what is learned during PSA professional development and throughout the session becomes part of how staff approach and carry out their work during the school year. The close student and staff relationships built during PSA provide a solid basis for those whose work together continues past the session, ultimately increasing student success and staff job satisfaction.More
Ballmer Group’s Strategic Investment
Ballmer Group's $30 million 10-year grant was catalytic in helping to enhance and scale BellXcel's evidence-based programming. --- Record 10-year $30 million grant from Ballmer Group to expand educational access to reduce summer slide July 20 2017 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE BOSTON - BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), the largest evidence-based summer learning provider in the U.S. and a national leader in PK-8 out-of-school time (OST) education, received a 10-year $30 million grant from Ballmer Group. It is the largest grant in BELL's 25-year history. Founded by former Microsoft CEO and Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and his wife Connie, Ballmer Group supports organizations and initiatives aimed at improving economic mobility for children and families in the U.S. BELL estimates that 7.5 million K-8 students from underserved communities are performing significantly below grade level. Up to two-thirds of the nation's academic achievement gap is due to lack of access to quality summer learning programs. Students who are not proficient readers by third grade are four times as likely to drop out of high school and face lower lifelong earnings. Ballmer Group's grant will support BELL's mission to eliminate summer slide by strengthening the capacity of school districts and youth-serving nonprofits to deliver BELL's high-quality, measurable and sustainable summer learning programs on a larger scale. Ballmer Group's support will allow BELL to increase programmatic efficiencies to better meet the needs of scholars, parents and teachers, while developing technology solutions to enable greater scale of the BELL model. "Education inequity is a national crisis that has long-term repercussions for our economy. It leaves underserved students at risk of being caught in a downward spiral of lower graduation rates, decreased lifelong earnings and generational poverty," says BELL CEO Lauren Sanchez Gilbert, Ed.D. "Ballmer Group's contribution allows us to further refine and replicate BELL's holistic, data-driven summer programs to reach exponentially more underserved children living in urban, suburban and rural communities." Ballmer Group chose organizations that support individuals and families at key life stages, use evidence-based practices, track outcomes and utilize data for continuous improvement. "Many of our nation's largest evidence-driven organizations are reaching less than 5 percent of their target population," says Tonya Dressel, Executive Director of Ballmer Group. "In response, we are investing in national organizations like BELL with demonstrated impact that align with our interest in improving economic mobility for children and families." Students spend 80 percent of their time outside of the confines of the school day. Young people whose families cannot afford expensive summer and after school programs are at risk of suffering higher learning loss that is difficult to regain. Studies show that by fifth grade, summer learning loss can leave underserved children two and a half to three years behind their peers. BELL's academic and enrichment programs have been shown to reverse summer slide. Nationwide, more than 14,500 BELL students, known as scholars, experience an average of two month gains in reading and three month gains in math annually. "We are grateful for Ballmer Group's long-term investment in children and families across the nation," said Dr. Gilbert. "They understand the challenges facing nonprofits and the importance of flexible funding to meet the complex needs of underserved communities. Their support will enable us to be more agile and responsive, and it will serve as an anchor to raise additional funds required to expand summer learning across the U.S." BELL transforms the life trajectories of scholars by empowering their circles of support, including parents and teachers. According to a 2016 survey, 92 percent of participating teachers say BELL helped them develop their professional skills, and the majority reported using BELL strategies in the classroom. Parents become more engaged as well, with 89 percent of those surveyed saying BELL programs made them more involved in their child's education. BELL supports program partners through all stages of their summer or after-school programs, including program design, curriculum development, professional development, measurement and technical assistance. BELL continuously applies and shares best practices and innovations as they are tested and refined in classrooms and other learning environments across the country. About Ballmer Group: Ballmer Group strengthens organizations and initiatives that increase economic mobility for children and families in the United States. Founders Steve and Connie Ballmer envision a country where the promise of the American Dream -that every child has an equal opportunity to build a better life -is within reach. -- The above press release was originally published in 2017 and BellXcel remains grateful for Ballmer Group's transformational investment.More
Research & Insights
Consistency of real evidence matters, especially when you are driven to ensure equitable high-quality experiences in all communities. BellXcel-powered programs are rigorously tested in diverse controlled settings, critically reviewed by experts, proven effective, and translated into practical, scalable solutions that are widely available. All this so that you can be confident that your programming is built upon solutions that reliably meet the evidence-based indicators required for quality outcomes.More
Remote Quality Reflection Tool
With nearly three decades of experience creating evidence-based programs, we know how important program quality is to a young person's experience and ability to learn and grow. Assessing quality in a remote environment is new to many organizations and was top-of-mind for us as we created BellXcel Remote, our evidence-based, teacher-led approach that adapts the classroom experience for home use during this time of distance learning. We called upon our affiliate, The Sperling Center for Research and Innovation (SCRI), to create the Remote Quality Reflection Tool for our remote program partners to assess and understand program quality. Who can use this tool? We are pleased to make this tool publicly available to empower any program to drive improvement through identifying areas of strength and progress on research-based indicators. We believe that the use of this tool will help to increase the collective knowledge base of remote learning. Learn how to use this tool Access a series of informative videos to gain guidance, suggestions and best practices when utilizing the Remote Quality Reflection Tool. Click here Download this free tool today! DownloadMore
Video Tutorials – Remote Quality Reflection Tool
In our efforts to support you in using the Remote Quality Reflection Tool, we are pleased to provide the following videos that offer guidance, suggestions, and best practices when completing indicator ratings and reflecting on quality. Each video focuses on specific areas related to the tool purpose, use and completion, evidence collection, and making the data actionable within your remote learning programs. We hope you will find this information helpful as you rate and reflect on your program quality. Additionally, we encourage you to contact us with your feedback or if we can be of assistance. Introduction to the Remote Quality Reflection Tool [embed]https://youtu.be/T4ej-UlPKcY[/embed] 1. Purpose, Goals and Evidence [embed]https://youtu.be/tgyNhkawlnM[/embed] 2. How to Use the Remote Quality Reflection Tool [embed]https://youtu.be/Mznx3gGqeNw[/embed] 3. Evidence Collection [embed]https://youtu.be/gNSA9JXuvPg[/embed] 4. Reflection and Continuous Improvement [embed]https://youtu.be/0GBFU26DxAY[/embed]More
Summer Collaboration Leads to Year-Round Success in San Antonio, TX
When 10-year-old Hattie Tillman, a rising 6th grader enrolled in YMCA of Greater San Antonio’s Power Scholar Academy (PSA), first embarked on her summer learning journey, she struggled with growth mindset. Today, when she gets an answer wrong, instead of shutting down like she used to, she says “It’s OK. I will get the next one right!” Once shy, she now beams with confidence. She enjoys helping other scholars. Her math and reading skills have always been solid, and through PSA, she’s bringing them to another level. “Here, she’s taking concepts she learned in the school year, and applying them to real-life, instead of compartmentalizing them. She’s learning that they’re all interconnected,” says Veronica Mansfield, academic instructor in PSA and a certified teacher during the school year. “She keeps pushing. Her confidence has improved. I’m proud of her,” said Hattie’s mother Karen Beard. “There’s a lot of negative pressure and violence in our neighborhood. She’s in a safe place to learn and grow.” Hattie is one of many shining examples of scholars enrolled in Power Scholars Academy, a partnership between YMCA of Greater San Antonio and BellXcel. Scholars, are improving their academic skills, social and emotional learning, and self-confidence, preparing them for success in school and beyond. The evidence-based summer program was launched to support struggling local schools, and to address summer learning loss. “Children in our community really need this program. They don’t have access to the same things other children do over the summer,” says Catherine Alvarado, Senior Director of Grant Administration and Program Innovation. “This is one of the poorest districts in San Antonio, and literacy is one of our biggest areas of need. This is my community. What pulls me in is knowing that we are helping children become more successful.” The PSA program’s success can also be attributed to the close, collaborative relationship with the schools they serve. This relationship isn’t confined to the summer months. It is year-round. Two PSA program directors, Elisa Felix and Edna Castillo-Saucedo, are embedded in the schools during the school-year. “Being in the school enables me to closely work with teachers and counselors, and engage with parents, to identify and enroll students who need extra help into the summer program,” Felix says. “We see the difference this level of engagement with schools is having compared to other sites,” said Alvarado. “We are a pillar of the school. We are a bridge for that continuum of learning with students from their community. When we speak to a financial supporter about the community needs, we speak to our impact on scholars, teachers, and on moving the entire school forward.” The partnership with BellXcel has helped their program reach new heights of success, says Alvarado. “This is too big a problem for one agency to handle alone,” Alvarado says. “Without the support of BellXcel, we wouldn’t have the data we so desperately need to prove that the program is working. Funders want to see outcomes, more than just outputs. BellXcel helps us prove that what we are doing in the partnership is working.”More
Myima is a rising 7th grade scholar in her second summer enrolled in a BellXcel-powered summer program. How did you feel initially about being enrolled in the program? Honestly, I was a little scared at first because I didn’t know if I was going to know anybody and if I was going to make any friends. So did you end up making new friends? Yes! I made new friends, and also saw some familiar faces. It was nice to see my classmates over the summer too. How has the program helped you with your academics? I get mostly As and Bs in school. I think the program has helped me maintain my skills. If I wasn’t here, I’d probably be behind in school. It’s sort of re-teaching you what you did in school, so you still know what to do when you go back to school. Was there a part of the program that you enjoyed the most? One of my favorite parts was a literacy project when we had to finish the ending of a play. We had to make up the ending, and act it out. I liked that you got to just make stuff up, and choose what happens with the characters. It’s a different way of learning compared to the school year. It’s more creative.More