After another unique year of quarantine interruptions and remote and/or hybrid learning, school districts are expanding their summer programs to bring grade-school students up to speed and get seniors across the finish line. Funded in large part by the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, it is estimated that this year’s summer programming will be more expansive than ever before.
In seasons past, a typical K12 summer school consisted of a 4-6 week program and was reserved for the relatively few students needing to catch up to their peers in certain subjects. This year is different, however, as many more students and parents are concerned about learning loss and reaching grade-level expectations.
Data to understand which students would most benefit from summer school is likely housed in multiple data silos in each district. In addition, education leaders must make summer school plans without 2020 state assessment data, and before many schools will be receiving the results from their 2021 state assessments.
Around the country, districts are preparing for an influx of students this summer.
Florida’s Orange County Public School System, for example, made summer programming available to every student. Officials there report that the estimated numbers for summer school attendees is nearly four times the regular count⸺from approximately 10,000 students to 37,000.
There are downsides associated with opening summer school to all: strapped resources from exhausted and limited classroom space to a need for busses, drivers, and auxiliary staff. Add to this kids who are burned out, parents needing a break, parents questioning the decision for their child who thrived in their remote learning environment.
Break it down even further, some children may have struggled with only math while others struggled most with reading or science.
Does a one-size-fits-all approach to perceived learning loss make sense? How will parents assess whether their child belongs in summer school? What evidence will districts provide to suggest that their offering is in the best interest of the individual?
There are ways to understand who needs acceleration in what areas from the data already sitting in the district data warehouse. Some data-focused districts are hand-selecting students to recommend for summer school based on an assessment of individual learning loss. This intentional approach is made possible by technology that gets data into the hands of teachers faster.
At Columbia School District in southern Mississippi, Curriculum Director Dr. Robert White regularly visits each campus as a way to stay in touch with teachers and students. As the administrator strolls down a hallway, he pokes his head into a classroom to get the teacher’s attention. “Do you have your list in for summer school?” he asks her. She does. It’s already been sent to the head office.Teachers at Columbia SD have offered their summer school recommendations to the district office based on their own data analysis and learning loss assessment in part using SchoolStatus–a data analytics and parent communication solution that makes all student data available to teachers for classroom use. Utilizing benchmarks and formative assessments in addition to historical state assessments, educators have a measurement of where students are today, relative to where they've been.
“Eligibility for our summer camp is focused on those students who would be projected to retain or barely pass their current grade but could be successful with a bit more intensive instruction,” explains Dr. White. “Those that mastered standards, but would like to participate anyway will be invited to attend if our enrollment projections per grade fall short.” Focused attention of each student ensures that no student falls through the cracks–or gets shuffled in unnecessarily.
While school districts are anxious to hit the reset button and provide students with instruction time necessary to get them up to speed as soon as possible, there is something to be learned from a measured, methodical approach to summer instruction. Columbia School District demonstrates that attention to individual needs is not impossible in the wake of an unprecedented school year.
SchoolStatus is the district-wide communication tool that integrates key student data in order to increase communication among educators, district administrators, and student families. The company’s solution aggregates individual student data, such as state assessments, attendance, and grades in an easy-to-visualize format and offers the option to communicate with student families via call, text, or email. Through SchoolStatus, millions of communications have occurred on the classroom, campus, and district level. For more information about SchoolStatus, visit www.schoolstatus.com.