In Shelby County, Tennessee, which includes Memphis, 9,000 students are attending summer math and reading programs designed to help those in the bottom 20% of their class catch up. Similar programs were implemented in other Tennessee districts with the hope they will help students make up for lost learning caused by the pandemic, Chalkbeat reports.
Participating students take state-mandated pre- and post-program tests, but despite the academic outcomes, the camps have intangible benefits such as confidence development, Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said. The programs also keep students occupied and help prevent them from getting into trouble.
The district is using federal relief money, as well as money from its county allocation, to pay for tutors and to hire more teachers to bring the adult/student ratio to 13-to-1 in kindergarten through 2nd grade.
Districts around the country are finding innovative ways to address this learning loss. For example, Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia is expanding summer program to all PK-12 students. In Pennsylvania, districts are partnering with Teachers in the Park to offer summer hybrid and enrichment lessons. Funds are also being funneled into summer learning. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom included $4.6 billion for summer learning in his proposed budget.
Summer programs are especially important this year as schools looks to recover from COVID-19 learning disruptions. A five-year study published in summer 2020 in American Education Research Journal showed 52% of students lost an average of 39% of their total school year gains over the summer months.
Accelerated learning experiences motivate students to learn during the summer, according to speakers at a webinar hosted by Learning Policy Institute and AASA, The School Superintendents Association. Districts can take the opportunity provided by the federal stimulus funds to improve and strengthen summer programs. Additionally, social-emotional learning should be incorporated into these programs.
A report from the Learning Policy Institute and Spencer Foundation finds equity can and should be incorporated into summer learning programs, and remediation programs should be inclusive and focused on the whole child. Programs should center on relationships, creating cultures of affirmation and belonging, building on students’ interests, and providing creative and inquiry-based learning.