If area big honchos were missing at Al Biernat’s or Salum’s on Monday, December 14, it was a good guess they weren’t at their desks munching on brown bag sandwiches.
Nope, they were at The Pump House for a call-to-arms for the salvation of Dallas’ most valued resource — the next generation.
OK, so name dropping would prove the importance of the affair. How about Caren Prothro, Mary Jalonick, Don Glendenning, Mary McDermott Cook, Regan Horchow Fearon, Brent Christopher, Carol Riddick, Ginger Sager, Byron Sanders and incoming Big Thought Board Chair Pat Porter? The rallying cry was “A Case for Summer—Dallas City of Learning Luncheon.”
Thanks to research and support provided by The Wallace Foundation, the Urban Institute Policy Group and Big Thought, it had been realized that the Dallas education system had gone dormant during the summer.
But the luncheon wasn’t one of those “let’s chew, chat and hear a speaker.” It was a down-and-dirty situation. No sooner had the plates hit the table than the program was underway with Deedie Rose doing the intros, the Wallace Foundation President Will Miller reporting results, Big Thought President/CEO Gigi Antoni explaining the plan for Dallas and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa discussing their involvement and handling any questions.
What was reported? That summer was considered a loss of an opportunity for students. Many of the kids in the DISD system didn’t have “tiger moms” coordinating their after-school and summer activities. It wasn’t because their parents didn’t want their kids to participate. It was the fact that the parents were struggling to get roofs over their heads and food on the table. But as a result their children’s social skills and awareness that could eventually be life-long game changers were not being developed.
According to the University of Chicago Nobel Prize winning economist James Heckman, “both academic and ‘soft skills’” drive outcomes in education and beyond.
From 1972 to 2008, the gap of spending by low- and high-income parents on enriching children has grown from $2,702 to $7,557.
According to the report, “Statistics show that summer is a critical time when low-income students fall into an achievement gap that could set them back as much as two grade levels.”
Many children lose ground in the summer due to the following factors:
- Greater learning loss
- Fewer structured opportunities for enrichment
- Less access to healthy foods
- Higher rates of obesity
- Risk of unsafe behaviors
On the other hand, summer provides opportunities for improvement instead of loss by having
- Unrestricted and flexible space to try out new solutions
- More time available in children’s schedules to provide learning opportunities
- Multiple institutions across sectors — schools, city agencies, nonprofits — can work together
Will explained that this research and situation was the reason that The Wallace Foundation had spent $23M in the past decade to address the issue.
To break this cycle a partnership of the City of Dallas, the DISD, Big Thought, Dallas County Community College District, The Wallace Foundation and MacArthur Foundation has been initiated to provide summer camps and activities for children and to reward them for their participation. The goal is to “reduce summer learning loss, decline juvenile crime, prepare youth for the workforce, address childhood health and wellness, and increase social-emotional skills.”
Keeping to the day’s schedule, Deedie told the tables of area leaders to discuss the plan and be “moderated by the speaker with the goal of dissecting various aspects of the problem, the solution and the implementation.”
Just before 1 p.m., Deedie called a halt to the table talk due to her commitment to the schedule and thanked all for attending. She also added that all would be welcome to financially support the program and join the efforts.
If nothing else, the lunch created an opportunity for influencers to start a conversation about a plan that will be continued about turning summer from a lost cause into a cause célèbre.