Examining Freedom Schools

Posted by on Sep 12, 2020 in Education

Have you ever heard of the “summer slide”? This is the term that teachers and educational experts use to describe student’s knowledge loss that can happen over the summer months when they’re not in school. This is especially true this year, when the coronavirus pandemic kept children out of school for much longer than the traditional ten weeks of summer break. One solution to this challenge are Freedom Schools. Here, btw takes a closer look at this unique program.

What Are Freedom Schools?

Freedom Schools are not a new idea. Founded by the Children’s Defense Fund in 1995, Freedom Schools provide children of color with educational programming but also with encouragement, mentoring, and a sense of empowerment. There are currently more than 180 of such schools throughout the United States. They’re modeled after the Freedom Schools started in Mississippi during the civil rights movement in 1964, which taught basic literacy skills but also  African American history, leadership skills, and more. Today’s classes are taught by college students or recent college graduates. The curriculum combines educational lessons with positive messaging.

Who Pays for Them?

The Children’s Defense Fund oversees the programs, but each one is expected to pay for itself. The students attend for free and receive free meals while they are there. This can sometimes make it difficult for programs to pay for itself, especially ones located in more economically-disadvantaged communities. Many rely on grants and donated time from volunteers to make ends meet.

Why Now?

While the need for Freedom Schools and the services they provide is greater now than ever before, the coronavirus pandemic also creates some unique challenges. This summer, many of the programs, which already face financial struggles , had to spend additional time finding enough funds or requesting critical donations to pay for personal protection equipment such as masks, and additional cleaning supplies. Some Freedom Schools had to move from their usual indoor spaces to outdoor locations, where weather, heat, and other distractions impacted student learning. Class sizes also dropped to ensure proper social distancing. That meant that fewer children were given the additional educational help they needed.

But this summer was unique for reasons other than coronavirus. As the nation grappled with the ongoing racial tension throughout this summer, the historical perspective provided at Freedom Schools taught students of color even more about their role in shaping their future and the future of the country.

Dig Deeper Who started Freedom Schools in 1964? Use the Internet to help you learn more, and write a short paragraph about what you find.