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SAIL Frequently Asked Questions

What is the origin of the Summer Adventures in Learning (SAIL) Program?

The Summer Adventures in Learning (SAIL) Program was developed in Birmingham as part of an action plan to respond to a survey of 37 Birmingham-area summer programs, conducted by the National Summer Learning Association in 2011. The SAIL Program was created to overcome summer learning loss. In the summer of 2012, a group of six Birmingham funders collaborated to launch the initial pilot projects of SAIL in their communities. In 2017, this group has grown to more than 40 funders supporting over 50 SAIL programs throughout Alabama.

What is summer learning loss?

According to the Summer Learning Association:

“Summer learning loss, the phenomenon where young people lose academic skills over the summer, is one of the most significant causes of the achievement gap between lower and higher income youth and one of the strongest contributors to the high school dropout rate. For many young people, the summer ‘opportunity gap’ contributes to gaps in achievement, employment and college and career success.

  • Every summer, low-income youth lose two to three months in reading while their higher-income peers make slight gains. Most youth lose about two months of math skills in the summer.
  • These reading and math losses add up. By fifth grade, summer learning loss can leave low-income students 2½ to 3 years behind their peers.
  • Research shows that while gaps in student achievement remain relatively constant during the school year, the gaps widen significantly during the summer.
  • Low-income youth lose access to healthy meals over the summer. Six out of every seven students who receive free- and reduced-price lunches lose access to them when school lets out.” (

The good news is that the effect of participation in a summer learning program can benefit the child for at least two years afterwards.

How does SAIL work to overcome summer leaning loss?

Local and statewide funders, school districts, summer programs, and education service providers develop a strong collaboration network to provide accountability, to institute a Quality Assurance Framework, to provide a joint application for nonprofit organizations seeking grant support, and to engage the community toward a common goal. SAIL focuses on summer programs where students can explore new interests and skills and gain the support they need to prevent summer learning loss.

Does SAIL make a difference?

The pilot program in the Greater Huntsville area during the summer of 2017 showed similar results to those achieved in Birmingham since SAIL's inception. Students in the Greater Huntsville program experienced 2.3 months of reading gains and 1.1 months of math gains during the summer of 2017. These results confirm that SAIL is scalable and that consistent results can be achieved across different locations.

Who is eligible for SAIL funding?

Non-profit organizations, governmental entities, and religious organizations who meet the requirements of IRS section 501(c)(3) and are seeking funding to add an academic component to your camps or expand an existing program to help prevent summer learning loss. To see the types of SAIL programs that have been funded in Birmingham, please visit

If I’m interested in being a SAIL funder, do I lose autonomy for my grant dollars?

No! SAIL funders will come together for a Funders’ Conference in mid-October. Each funder will be able to evaluate the programs that have been selected and to decide where to place their grant dollars.