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The mission of the Your Mark on the World Center is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.

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Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Social Entrepreneur Works To End ‘Summer Slide’ And Close Achievement Gap For Urban Poor

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

The achievement gap between affluent and poor students gets worse every summer as the less fortunate forget much of what they learned during the school year, a phenomenon known as the “summer slide.”

Karim Abouelnaga, the young social entrepreneur who launched Practice Makes Perfect, explains, “The achievement gap is damaging to our society at a basic level. In 2009, McKinsey & Company estimated that the gap was costing our economy $310-$525 billion in GDP each year, which is the equivalent of a permanent national recession. The achievement gap is likely to widen as our income gap widens.”

“Our nation’s summer school system is broken. It’s well-intentioned but, as currently conceived, it doesn’t work. In reality, summer school is punitive; it’s for students who failed to learn enough to be promoted. It’s taught by teachers, many of whom are burned out from the previous 10 months. They put low-performing students together in a class to struggle. Students are assigned worksheets for tests that don’t really matter. They’re not engaged. They merely “do their time” in hopes of getting promoted and the cycle will likely repeat next year,” he observes.

Practice Makes Perfect operates in New York City’s toughest schools, where Abouelnaga observes, “Fewer than half the students in summer school pass end-of-summer reading and math tests and yet they will be promoted anyway because the city’s promotion policy also factors in attendance and classwork.”

The Cornell-educated Abouelnaga is proud of the program he’s created to address the problems he’s observed.

“At Practice Makes Perfect, we have re-imagined the summer learning experience. We work closely with schools to operate summer school programs for them,” he says.

Abouelnaga outlines the program as follows:

  • Our team handles the on-boarding and outreach process for schools.
  • We start by tackling the stigma associated with summer school and changing students’ perception around learning. Then we identify high-achieving peers who act as mentors to our students.
  • We hire college students who are aspiring teachers to lead our instruction. They conduct home visits before our program starts to build rapport with the students and their families.
  • We then hire teachers from the schools we work with to act as teaching coaches for the summer. They receive professional development and spend their summer mentoring aspiring teachers instead of burning out by teaching all summer.
  • We extend the school day incorporate local field trips, and do community service.

“We’ve created a model where everyone wins,” he exults.

Abouelnaga has a grand vision, “Practice Makes Perfect has the potential to eliminate summer learning loss and narrow the achievement gap by two-thirds. More importantly, our nation can take a huge step forward in providing equal opportunities for children of all backgrounds. We want to re-write narratives and change social paradigms. No longer will your zip code or where you’re born be the reason why you do or do not attain a high-quality education.”

Abouelnaga is one of the remarkable social entrepreneurs just completing the Santa Clara University Global Social Benefit Institute at the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

On Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 5:00 Eastern, Abouelnaga will join me for a live discussion about the problems facing our low-income, urban students and the solutions that Practice Makes Perfect is deploying to solve them. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Practice makes Perfect:

Twitter: @PMPUSA

Practice Makes Perfect (PMP) is a non-profit organization that provides an innovative summer learning program to struggling inner-city students. PMP’s unique “near-peer” model places K-8 students in small groups with higher achieving mentors from the same neighborhood who are four years older. PMP’s alternative to traditional summer school narrows the educational achievement gap among students in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. Results from Summer 2015 showed that students who have completed the PMP summer program show average gains of 2 months English Language Arts (ELA) and 6 months of Math proficiency.

Karim Abouelnaga with student, courtesy of Practice Makes Perfect

Karim Abouelnaga with student, courtesy of Practice Makes Perfect

Abouelnaga’s bio:

Twitter: @KarimAbouelnaga

Karim Abouelnaga is the founder & CEO of Practice Makes Perfect, which he founded at 18 while still a college student. He is the product of under-resourced New York City public schools, but benefited from mentors who helped lift him out of his neighborhood into Cornell University, where he received over $300,000 in scholarships and aid to make his college education possible. He founded the organization to “pay it forward,” to help students with a background similar to his who didn’t have the opportunities he had. Karim is an Echoing Green Fellow and Global Shaker and, at the age of 23, was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Education list in 2015.

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