BINGHAMTON, NY – School’s out: and for low-income children and families, summer vacation can cause serious setbacks.

"While summer learning loss is a well-documented issue for youth in low-income communities, there are a variety of strategies that schools may adopt to address this issue," said Laura Bronstein, dean of the College of Community and Public Affairs and professor of social work at Binghamton University. "In addition to learning loss, inadequate access to health and mental health care, sub-optimal nutrition, community violence and lack of adult supervision can be heightened during the summer months and disproportionately affects low-income youths." 

Bronstein’s new book, School-Linked Services: Promoting Equity for Children, Families, and Communities, which she co-authored with Susan Mason, re-thinks the relationship between public education and communities, and how schools can help break the cycle of poverty. Access to better services — summer programs; early childhood and afterschool care; health screenings; and programs for family engagement, etc. — can prevent physical and mental health problems and greater public costs later on.

In 2013, Broome County was designated as the fifth New York State Promise Zone, which aims to create improved learning environments for schoolchildren in high-needs communities. It is a joint effort of Binghamton University, Broome-Tioga BOCES, the Broome County Mental Health Department and local school districts.

Keeping with its model of continuous learning and support, the Broome County Promise Zones runs five "Summer Zones" in Binghamton, Johnson City, Whitney Point, Union-Endicott and Windsor. These summer learning opportunities provide four- to six-week full-day science, technology, engineering, arts, and math programming with activities designed to connect students to vocational and higher education opportunities later on.

Bronstein said the Summer Zones are an example of how schools can continue to engage children throughout the summer months to ensure they don’t experience learning loss or other setbacks come September.

According to Bronstein, in order to address the needs of children from low-income homes, schools need the support of school-linked services, or community partnerships and programming beyond the school day.

"Schools with integrated services and extended hours that have been evaluated for over a decade are showing improvements in all the areas necessary for communities to thrive," Bronstein said. "Schools are built to meet the academic needs of children primarily, but in order to level the playing field for youth from all backgrounds, partnerships between communities and schools are vital." 

The book examines how school-linked services and additional programs can help close the achievement gap in America’s schools.

"In an increasingly diverse society, the traditional model where education occurs completely within the school building, provided solely by teachers and only during the hours of nine to three from September to June, needs reviewing," Bronstein said. "Academic year instruction needs to exist side-by-side with out-of-school learning and year-round supportive services to ensure all students can succeed."

School-Linked Services was published by the Columbia University Press in May 2016 with a foreword by Jane Quinn, and can be found online for purchase at the Columbia University Press.