Catherine Lindroth: Closing the Summertime Learning Gap
While working at Teach For America as the director of Community Impact nearly six years ago, Catherine Lindroth became aware of the importance of summer—particularly for the low-income youth in Delaware.
The academic achievement gap between high-income and low-income children is relatively small during the school year but widens significantly through the summer. Low-income children in Wilmington lost up to three months of learning in the summer while high-income children gain up to two months of learning. This dichotomy, repeated year after year, accounts for two-thirds of the academic achievement gap.
So Lindroth took action, forming Summer Learning Collaborative, or SummerCollab, a nonprofit that partners with existing community institutions to help them optimize their efforts in the highest-need communities. Through targeted staff development, summer planning and data resources, the program grows student literacy, curiosity and critical thinking skills.
Through SummerCollab, Lindroth has mobilized more than 150 teachers in a shared mission aimed at reversing “the summer slide” for kids grades K-12th through a methodical, yearlong support process. Area summer camps select the SummerCollab courses they wish to use, which they then teach for a minimum of two hours a day, four days a week, for six weeks throughout the summer.
“Against all odds, we were able to spin off The Summer Learning Collaborative into a stand-alone nonprofit that now empowers existing leaders to change their mindsets and beliefs about children and each other,” says Lindroth. “Through our growing network, SummerCollab serves over 2,000 low-income youth in the state of Delaware, and seeks to serve up to 7,000 kids in our state by 2020.”
“We provide our partners with targeted talent, technology, curricular, and planning tools to improve the overall quality of their summer program,” says Lindroth.
“Summer,” she adds, “outside of any bureaucracy, is pliable —it is a free canvas upon which to craft engaging, empowering programming that pragmatically prepares students for 21st century challenges and careers.”