After the disruptions to education during the previous year, 2021 will most likely continue to be a tough year for students and teachers alike. Among the many issues we face, learning loss is as big a problem as it has ever been, and offering summer learning opportunities is a great way to help students catch up, as well as review and reinforce what they’ve learned, and even work ahead.
Overall in 2020, “students lost the equivalent of three months of learning in mathematics and one-and-a-half months of learning in reading,” according to research done by McKinsey & Company. In Virginia alone, the number of students earning F grades in two or more classes nearly doubled.
We know teachers and families need a helping hand in giving their students the best chance of dealing with learning loss and the stresses of remote and digital learning, and offering summer learning opportunities can be a great solution for this.
The Power of Offering Summer Learning Opportunities
Continuing learning during the summer has always been important, and it has taken on greater importance now as so many students deal with higher-than-usual learning loss. Though many may think of summer school as a resource for students who have fallen behind, it is a powerful one that educators and students alike can take advantage of regardless of their skill level or physical location.
That’s why this year is a perfect opportunity to change the way students, families, and teachers view summer school so that students of every background have more opportunities to succeed––especially during the summer months.
This changing of views begins in the way we talk about summer school and transition students into the summer months.
We know that every student can benefit from continuing their education through the summer months; we also know that summer school helps with more than just foundational skills. Besides preventing further learning loss, summer learning programs help students keep to an education regimen during summer break to improve study skills and learning habits, leaving them better prepared for the next school year.
Students lost the equivalent of three months of learning in mathematics and one-and-a-half months of learning in reading [in 2020].
So instead of avoiding the topic of summer school or only suggesting it to students who are struggling, teachers, families, and administrators should position summer school as an option to all students. Providing structure, learning opportunities, and childcare can be very helpful to both students and families, especially after a school year like the one we’re experiencing. Work to normalize the idea of summer school during the academic year by mentioning summer programs in your conversations with students and their parents—even if they are optional.
Reforming the School Year
Traditionally, many families and teachers have been reluctant to give up what they see as a well-deserved break from the classroom. Teachers need the time to prepare for the next year and engage in professional development, and families often pack the summer months with vacations, activities, sports, and other programs. It can be an uphill battle for administrators to fill their virtual or physical summer classrooms with both students and instructors.
However, we now know that educating students does not have to require more teachers or extra hours. With the rapid rise of distance and online learning over the past year, many people now know that it doesn’t have to be a huge challenge to give your students the tools they need (and want) to succeed. Edgenuity offers many different options to address learning loss, social and emotional learning, and preparation for the next school year, all available with virtual instructors.
The best thing? With numerous virtual education options, you can offer your students a thorough summer education without putting the burden on your teachers or your district budget. Thanks to state and federal education proposals, summer school programs might soon be covered for schools and districts that choose to implement them. This would make it easier to “reform the school calendar,” as The New York Times says, adding that, “The disruption of the pandemic will help shift attitudes over the next several years, making [summer school] more palatable to help students.”
Offering summer learning opportunities can be a valuable part of any school’s education plans. These programs can be a resource for students and families and a welcome relief to teachers who need the summer months to rest and recharge. The 2020–2021 school year has been a particularly challenging one for teachers and offering summer learning opportunities can help everyone just that little bit more.
Dorn, E., Hancock, B., Sarakatsannis, J., & Viruleg, E. (2020, December 8). COVID-19 and learning loss—disparities grow and students need help. McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-and-social-sector/our-insights/covid-19-and-learning-loss-disparities-grow-and-students-need-help
Natanson, H. (2020, November 24). Failing grades spike in Virginia’s largest school system as online learning gap emerges nationwide. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/fairfax-schools-more-failing-grades/2020/11/24/1ac2412e-2e34-11eb-96c2-aac3f162215d_story.html
Goldstein, D., Taylor, K. (2021, February 5). Summer school is a hot idea right now. Could it work? The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/05/us/summer-school-covid.html