Friday, April 29, 2011

Summertime and the Learnin' Ain't Easy!

Earlier in the week, we blogged about why it is so important for District high schoolers to have Summer School as a viable way to recover credits necessary for grade promotion and/or graduation. Having this option available to all students who need it is essential to stemming the District’s current drop-out crisis. If our government is serious about fixing the education system then divesting in Summer School is a curious way to go about it.

Equally important to re-funding opportunities for high school students is restoring funding for middle-school and elementary students – albeit for very different reasons. Not only is Summer School for younger students vital to ensuring that they form a path to graduation in the first place, it also helps build the bridge to post-secondary educational opportunities. Researchers at Johns Hopkins found in a study of 800 Baltimore students that roughly two-thirds of the high school freshmen who chose not to pursue a college preparatory curriculum did so because of the academic losses they sustained during the summer months.

The educational losses younger students sustain during the summer months can be severe and the situation is especially dire for low-income students. Statistically, economically disadvantaged students start school with lower achievement scores than their peers, but during the school year they progress at about the same rate as other students. However, this progress can be quickly negated during the summer months. While research shows that most students across the socio-economic spectrum lose approximately 2 months of grade-level equivalency in math over the summer months, low-income students also lose 2 months of reading equivalency while their middle-class peers tend to make slight gains (National Summer Learning Association). All children and youth are susceptible to “summer slide,” but for already low-performing students, the lack of Summer School options makes basic educational achievement nearly impossible.

Summer School provides structure and continued skill development to those students in need of academic recovery in addition to prevention of summer learning loss. In 2010, DCPS enrolled roughly 5,000 elementary and middle school students in Summer School. However, this summer, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in DC have a severely diminished number of slots with a maximum of 175 slots available. Elementary student slots are now capped at 3,600. This leaves over 1000 students without critical academic support and at an extreme risk of falling even further behind.

Limiting the number of summer slots for thousands of DCPS students is an unacceptable way of balancing the DCPS budget. Investing in a robust education system that accounts for the educational attainment of all children and youth is the only way that we can attain truly improved outcomes. To accomplish this, DC must keep the doors to education open during the summer months, not shut them in the faces of our cities' children and youth.

This is Part 2 of a series of blogs about the effects of the FY'11 Budget Cuts on children and youth in DC. Stay tuned over the next two weeks as we give you the rundown of how cuts have already started to erode progress made in the District in areas like positive youth development programming, education, health and juvenile justice.

If you are interested in guest blogging about a specific issue please contact Anne Abbott, DCAYA's Membership and Communications Coordinator at anne(at)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It's a Cruel, Cruel Summer

Among the many budget casualties in FY’11 was the drastic cut in funds for DCPS Summer School. While some young people spend during the summer months watching TV or hanging out with their friends, many youth depend on Summer School to help improve academic skills or to get ahead in their coursework for the next year. Yet, others rely on Summer School in order to be promoted to the next grade level or to even recover enough credits to graduate on time.

Last year, DCPS maintained open enrollment for all high school students who needed to attend summer school, resulting in an average daily attendance of 3,800 students. However, for Summer 2011, the number of high school spots faces a drastic reduction due to budget constraints. This summer, DCPS will only offer Summer School for high school Seniors who are within three credits of graduation. And unlike in years past, summer classes will only be offered at Ballou, McKinley, Coolidge and Eliot-Hine High Schools.

The lack of academic opportunities offered by DCPS this summer comes as an especially tough blow given the low levels of educational proficiency that exist across the District. DCAYA’s joint report with Critical Exposure and the John Hopkins Everybody Graduates Center revealed that 48% of the nearly 1,000 youth surveyed reported failing one or more of their classes. 22% reported failing between two to four of their classes and nearly 25% of high school students surveyed reported that they had repeated a grade.

Although high school students in the District are largely on par with national trends in their Summer School attendance (about 21%, National Center for Education Statistics), the need in the District for expanded opportunities for ninth, tenth, and eleventh graders is far greater. In 2007, 73.4% of DCPS’ drop-out population came from the ninth grade, 14.6% came from the sophomore population, and 6.5% came from high school juniors. This means that almost 95% of youth who dropped out of school in DC did so before their senior year--- a rate far above the national average of 75.2%.

By limiting District high school students’ ability to regain credit during the summer months, DCPS will severely stymie the ability of thousands of high school students not just to graduate on time, but to graduate at all. Though there is little that can be done to help rectify the situation for Summer 2011, there is still time to ensure that the summer of 2012 does not provide the same bleak landscape of educational opportunity to DC’s high school students.

This is Part 1 of a series of blogs about the effects of the FY'11 Budget Cuts on children and youth in DC. Stay tuned over the next two weeks as we give you the rundown of how cuts have already started to erode progress made in the District in areas like positive youth development programming, education, health and juvenile justice.

If you are interested in guest blogging about a specific issue please contact Anne Abbott, DCAYA's Membership and Communications Coordinator at anne(at)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New Blog Series

In the heat of the FY'12 Budget Season, it's tempting for DC's advocate community to fixate on what lies ahead and to lose sight of current challenges the city faces. With a looming budget gap of nearly $300 million for next year, it’s easy to forget that DC residents are already feeling the effects of reduced services and fewer programs from last year's budget gap closing.This is certainly true for DC's youth population.

While DCAYA has been guilty of this "future focused" mentality the last few weeks, we mean to make amends. To start we will be writing a new blog series that highlights the current state of affairs in the District's programming for children and youth.

We'll lead off the series with a closer look at the DCPS budget and the effect of cuts to summer school so be sure to check out our first post tomorrow morning!Our second blog in the series will be coming out on Friday (04/29/11) and then we'll have another post early next week!

Follow our posts over the next few weeks as we examine how budget cuts in key areas are already negatively effecting the lives of young people and be sure to leave comments and feedback if there is an area you would like to see us examine in greater depth.

Monday, April 04, 2011

District Youth Lose in FY'12 Budget

If you've been paying any attention to DCAYA (or really District politics in general) for the last week or so, you are probably already well versed on the pros and cons of Mayor Gray's FY'12 Budget that dropped last Friday. Mayor Gray's Budget included a number features that came as somewhat of a surprise to Councilmembers and DC's advocate community alike, but also included a number of cuts to the human services and education clusters that unfortunately did not come as a surprise.

Key youth programs that will have substantially less funding in FY'12 than FY'11 include:

Education Cluster- DCPS

-DCPS Office of OST- 1 million in proposed cuts

-DCPS Summer School-9 million in proposed cuts

-DCPS Wrap-Around Services Provision-9.5 million in proposed cuts

-Office of Youth Engagement-3.7 million in proposed cuts

Youth Workforce Development (DOES)

-Year Round Programs for In- and Out-of School Youth faces a cut of $611,000 (federal funds)

-Summer Youth Employment Program took 4.1 million in proposed cuts

Youth Homelessness

-The Homeless Services Continuum and Permanent Supportive Housing has a total proposed cut of $224,000

-Strong Families funding has a proposed cut of $353,000

Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation (CYTIC)

Has received a proposed cut of $1,000,000 from the FY’11 level of $4.6 million

General Proposed Human Service Cluster Cuts

-DHS Teen Pregnancy Services remains unfunded

-$500,000 cut from Office of Youth Empowerment

Human services programs only account for 26% of the locally funded budget, yet this cluster sustained a whopping 58% reduction via the proposed budget cuts. Youth programming and more specifically programming for vulnerable youth populations fared especially badly in this year's budget and these cuts come at a time when DC's children and youth need services and programs the most.

While there is still plenty of budget season left to advocate on behalf of sustained funding, now that the Mayor's Budget is out it will be up to the Council to ensure that the programs that mean the most to the city are the ones that remain intact. As we move forward, DCAYA will be keeping you up to date and informed on every opportunity for you and the children, youth and families you serve to have your voices heard.