July 2018 will commemorate the sixth year of a successful partnership between Newark Public Schools' Office of Expanded Learning Time (ELT) and The Newark Arts Education Roundtable (NAER) in providing over 9,000 Newark students with meaningful summer arts enrichment during SummerPlus, the city's summer learning program. This partnership is an important example of how collective action can elevate positive impacts for Newark youth.
Serving 250 students at Camden Street School in grades six to eight during its pilot year, Project Plus-a summer learning program of the Newark Public Schools (NPS)-was launched in 2013 with the support of Victoria Foundation and Prudential Foundation. Summer learning loss, which more heavily impacts low-income youth, is recognized as a factor in widening the achievement gap. The pilot program was implemented with the goal of increasing summer school attendance, by developing and presenting a fun and engaging summer learning experience.
In its first year Project Plus provided students with morning academic programs, followed by enrichment activities led by Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, Project USE and New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). In 2014, the NAER lobbied funders and NPS to increase financial support for the continuation of summer arts enrichment, extending the summer pilot program to nine additional sites. NAER is a cross sector collaborative whose mission is to ensure that all Newark children in grades Pre K-12, have equitable access to and participation in, high quality and sequential arts education opportunities both in and out of school.
The success of Project Plus led to a second year roll out of the newly-named SummerPlus to 10 school sites. Each day students received three hours of academic enrichment in the morning, followed by two additional enrichments in the afternoon. Afternoon enrichments, including the arts, were connected to the morning curriculum and the overall summer themes designed by each school. The summer culminated with performances, project display and carnival activities for families to attend. Since 2013 SummerPlus has served nearly 10,000 Newark Public Schools students through partners including: Arts Horizons; Changing Perceptions Theatre; Dramatic Impact; GlassRoots; Music Ascension; Writer's Theatre of New Jersey (formerly Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey); NJPAC; Yendor Productions; and the YMCA Newark. Meeting its primary mission to provide students entering grades one through eight, SummerPlus provided high quality summer learning experiences that focused on academic enrichment along with enrichment in the areas of STEM, the arts, recreation, and social emotional learning.
Over a short period of time we have been able to measure the impact of this partnership on our young people. Data from NAER's survey of SummerPlus 2017 measuring Social Emotional Learning, reveals that students who participated in SummerPlus arts programming, showed overall positive growth in attitude toward student confidence, interest in trying new experiences, an increase in cultural competency, empathy and perseverance. Summer 2018 ushers in enrichment for 3,600 students as NPS and NAER continue to provide arts experiences to help fight summer slide. Newark students can register for SummerPlus 2018 until May 4th at: http://www.nps.k12.nj.us/summerprograms/