BELL Program Produces Results for Montgomery County Public School Students

March 7, 2017

On Thursday, March 9 in Rockville, Councilmember Nancy Navarro, MCPS officials, representatives from BELL and the Rales Foundation will address impact of the successful summer learning program


Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro will join Board of Education President Michael Durso, Superintendent of Schools Jack R. Smith, parents and teachers at 11:15 a.m. on Thursday, March 9, in Rockville to offer details of the successful impact of the BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) summer learning program in Montgomery County. Newly released data show that the BELL program made significant progress toward reducing the “summer slide” for students in mathematics and reading.

The event will take place at Montgomery County Public Schools’ Carver Educational Services Center, which is located at 850 Hungerford Dr. in Rockville.

BELL is a data-driven academic and enrichment program for rising third and fourth graders that uses proven methods to address the summer learning loss that occurs for many students during the summer months. During the summer of 2016, 1,045 students participated in the program at eight schools.     

Councilmember Navarro was instrumental in building the public-private collaboration among Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), the Norman R. and Ruth Rales Foundation and the BELL program that was necessary to establish this program in Montgomery County. 

“Programs that reach children during out-of-school time are essential to close the opportunity gap,” said Councilmember Navarro, who chairs the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee and served as a member of President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. “I am delighted that we now have data-driven results showing that the BELL program makes a difference for students. I want to thank Montgomery County Public Schools and the Rales Foundation for working with me to bring this program to Montgomery County.”

The BELL program is a five-week summer program with staffing that includes MCPS-certified teachers and teaching assistants. The program focuses on literacy, math and a variety of hands-on enrichments. In addition, the program provides family engagement activities, field trips and daily breakfast and lunch for students.

According to a program evaluation conducted by MCPS, BELL attendees significantly outperformed non-attendees in three areas: Grade 3 mathematics, Grade 4 mathematics and Grade 3 reading. In each area, there was a positive and significant impact for all students and also for three subgroups: Hispanic/Latino, recipients of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services and recipients of Free and Reduced-price Meals System (FARMS) services. The program evaluation was based on scores from Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests in the fall following the program.

“The Board of Education appreciates the Montgomery County Council and the Rales Foundation’s commitment to providing our students with access to rigorous and enriching programs like BELL,” said Board of Education President Durso. “We value this partnership and look forward to monitoring our students’ continued success in this program.”

The BELL program is based on a small group model that uses certified teachers and trained tutors. The program measures student progress utilizing STAR assessment computer-adaptive tests and conducts surveys of parents and teachers. 

“We are excited to see the positive impact that this program has had on our students’ performance in several key areas,” said MCPS Superintendent Smith. “We are confident that these expanded learning opportunities will help improve their academic success, self-confidence and social skills.”

It is estimated that the BELL program will serve 4,200 students over four years.  

“Previous third-party evaluations, along with this recent assessment commissioned by MCPS, show that expanding summer learning and enrichment opportunities for children living in under-resourced communities leads to positive outcomes,” said Lauren Gilbert, BELL’s president and chief strategy officer. “We applaud MCPS for its leadership in measuring program outcomes, and look forward to gleaning insights to further optimize program delivery to better serve participating students and educators.”    

The educational component of the program costs approximately $1,430 per student. The Council’s Fiscal Year 2016 special appropriation of $750,750, which was introduced and strongly supported by Councilmember Navarro, funded half of the program. Funding from the Rales Foundation and other financial contributions completed the funding required for more than 1,000 students to participate in the program.

“The Rales Foundation is delighted to be part of this innovative public-private partnership with Montgomery County and BELL to help rising third and fourth graders reach their full potential through a time-tested summer program,” said Joshua Rales, president of the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation.  “We are very excited about the initial results from the MCPS evaluation, and hope to build further upon these gains this coming summer.”

Councilmember Navarro also proposed creating a separate dedicated funding source to ensure a long-term strategic approach for early childhood education in 2014. The Council approved funding to begin the Children’s Opportunity Fund in FY16.     

For more information on BELL, visit:

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