By Ron Matz

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s often called “the summer slide.” The time when students are out of school and can fall behind in their studies.

But a relatively new program in Baltimore is helping stop the slide, through music and the arts.

“In every classroom we have a professional artist and a certified teacher co-teaching together,” says Kurtis Donnelly, chief operating officer of the Young Audiences Summer Arts Academy.

“So we’re doing 90 minutes of math, 90 minutes of reading, but we do that through what’s called arts integration, so using the arts as a tool to teach those subjects.”

The five-week program features music and dance, and a roster of teaching artists.

This style of learning “really engages the students,” according to Lara Ohanian, director of differentiated learning for Baltimore City Public Schools.

“This is a fun opportunity to learn in an artistic way and a fun way so it keeps us where we need to be by the end of the summer,” says one of the instructors, spoken word artist and slam poet Femi the DriFish.

And where these students need to be is important for parents as well.

“I think it’s really important for my children to be here,” says mom Monique Washington.

“I don’t like them sitting around during the summertime. I want them to be involved. This program actually helps them to continue their education. They did a lot of arts and my children love arts.”

This is the third year for the academy, and the research indicates it has a significant positive impact.

“So the average Baltimore City student, last year when they came back to school, they lost
three percentile ranks in math,” Donnelly says. “That’s called summer learning loss, summer learning slide. Our students actually gained two percentile points in math so that’s a five point swing between the students that didn’t go to summer and the students that came to learn through the arts.”

More than 1,100 students will attend the Young Audiences Summer Arts Academy at four locations in the city through August 11.

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