Study Finds BELL Summer Learning Programs Impact Teachers' Approach to School-Year Instruction

Improve Education Fund
September 06, 2018


A new Bellwether Education Partners study found BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) helps teachers hone their instructional skills during the summer, which they then carry into the school year to help students build skills all year long. Bellwether Education Partners is a national nonprofit research agency that helps education organizations accelerate their impact and improve their practice.

According to the study, 100 percent of teachers reported that BELL's professional development positively influenced their approach to teaching in the new school year. The teachers applied BELL's instructional techniques to school-year classrooms, including integrating growth mindset language, deploying positive behavior management tactics, and allowing students more choice and agency in their learning. The teachers said being a part of the BELL summer learning program was energizing and renewed their appreciation and passion for teaching to the point where they volunteered to train colleagues on BELL strategies.

In BELL's fall 2017 survey, 83 percent of educators said they use BELL's instructional strategies in their school year classrooms. Approximately 91 percent of educators said BELL improved their professional skills, and 83 percent desire additional professional development opportunities through BELL. Thirty percent took on new leadership roles during the school year.

"Historically, professional development opportunities for teachers have not shown demonstrative gains in student learning," said Allison Crean Davis, Partner of Bellwether. "In this study, BELL teachers not only told us that the training they received had an impact on their summer program teaching, but also on their approach to instruction during the traditional academic year. This is an example of how Bellwether works with organizations like BELL to help them understand their impact in the education sector and how they can build on work like this to create a robust research agenda."

BELL is a national nonprofit that empowers school districts and community-based organizations through best practice tools, strategies, and real-time support so they can deliver high-quality out-of-school-time (OST) programs to improve the academic achievements, self-confidence and life trajectories of highest need Pre-K to 8 students. The evidence-based summer learning program provides students, known as scholars, with a holistic learning experience that blends rigorous literacy and math instruction with hands-on enrichment, social-emotional learning, and community engagement.

"Shrewd school districts are realizing that summer is not only a great time to build students' skills, but also teachers' skills," says BELL CEO Dr. Lauren Sanchez Gilbert. "Districts that are strapped for funds, are choosing BELL because of our solution's high return on investment, and our ability to strengthen their capacity to provide teachers with best practice instructional strategies at much lower costs."

Several teachers offered personal testimonials about BELL's impact on their teaching styles for the study including:

"Even though this is my 34th year, BELL was the most magical experience I had in all my teaching years. It was empowering the teachers and the scholars. I hold on to that so when a situation looks dismal, I remember there are things working in education. It was more of an internal fire."

"It gave me a renewed motivation to handle the school year. It gave me a confidence boost I needed to approach the year. It made me start the school year feeling more like a teacher than a behavior specialist."

"With BELL, the curriculum was more student-centered. Seeing the growth kids had with a different structure gave me a different spin to how I handle my classroom. The way I set my classroom up was more center-based learning. I try to keep my time more center-rotation based for the kids."

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