Catherine Lindroth has been with Teach for America for nearly three years as the organization’s Community Impact Director in Delaware. In those three years, Lindroth has been dedicated to solving the “summer slide” for low-income children — the drastic drop in learning over the course of the summer.
“Higher-income kids gain up to two months and our lower-income kids lose up to four,” Lindroth said, citing data from a Johns Hopkins study. “You cannot close the achievement gap without fixing summer inequality.”
After three years of extensively studying summer slide, Lindroth believes she has developed a solution that she’s calling The Summer Learning Collaborative, which includes an online platform where camp counselors can build out efficient and effective lesson plans.
Lindroth is in a unique position with Teach for America — she works directly with Wilmington’s community centers, where the majority of low-income summer camps are held. Within centers like the YMCA, West End Neighborhood House and the Boys and Girls Club of Delaware, Lindroth realized every community center struggles with the same three things over the course of the summer:
- Recruiting high-quality talent
- Training that talent
- Planning effectively for summer camp
So, Lindroth and her Teach for America team rounded up local community center management and began recruiting talent straight out of college.
“It’s new blood,” she said. “It’s new people with higher standards about what it is we’re trying to accomplish over the summer.”
Those 40 new camp counselors were given 40 hours of training from Outward Bound this past spring. Then, the leadership team was shipped out to Massachussetts, to a camp called Explo — a summer camp for some of the wealthiest kids in the country (the camp 3D-printed a dinosaur skeleton and buried it just to teach the kids about excavation).
“After the third grade, low-income kids stop going to summer camp because they’re so bored,” said Lindroth. “We’re not just trying to build institutions that can drive higher levels of literacy, we are trying to build places where kids can walk into and by the end of the summer, fundamentally see themselves differently.”
One leg of Lindroth and her team’s solution is digital, an online platform called SummerCollab.
Here’s how it works. The site serves as a repository for high-quality summer education content, drawn from multitudes of activities from camps and organizations that generally cater to higher-income kids. Lindroth “translates” those activities into affordable projects that will captivate and educate campers.
“We realized we didn’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Lindroth said.
The site — combined with the recruitment and training strategies and a vigilant focus on adapting to data (Lindroth said she analyzes the data for impact every week) — will be spun off from Teach for America and built as its own entity, Lindroth said.
“We have some really serious data to support that we’re doing something promising here,” she said. “We’re starting to gear up to try to scale it. We want to grow this because we think we have a solution that does a lot of good.”