As our fellow school superintendents across the state consider their budget priorities, we urge them to consider investing in summer learning programs, a cost-effective, yet highly impactful strategy to help achieve their school district’s most pressing priorities.
In our own districts, we’ve seen firsthand that summer learning programs are key to advancing some of our top priorities, including Common Core implementation, supporting students’ social-emotional growth and enhancing teacher/staff professional development.
In a new series of reports, Putting Summer to Work: the Development of High-Quality Summer Learning Programs in California, the Summer Matters campaign profiles summer learning in our school districts and explores how high-quality summer learning programs have enriched students and teachers alike, and prevented “summer learning loss” among students from low-income families and English Language Learners.
For example, our teachers are using the summer months as learning laboratories for Common Core implementation. Summer learning programs give our educators a unique opportunity to experiment with new lesson plans and assess their effectiveness in low-pressure, but very genuine, learning environments. All our summer programs use project-based learning to better engage and motivate students, a strategy consistent with the Common Core that challenges our teachers to change their practices.
Credentialed teachers used the summer learning programs they led to try out new teaching approaches that they are now repeating and sharing with other teachers during the school year. From gardening projects to summer robotics classes, our teachers practiced techniques to encourage students to tackle complex, open-ended questions, make active choices related to what they are learning, connect with themes and knowledge across subject matters and hone their communication skills through the use of social media and public speaking.
Our summer learning programs also enhanced our students’ self-confidence, persistence, willingness to try new things, and sense of belonging to the school community. These social and emotional skills that were explicitly taught during the summer months will improve our students’ engagement and our overall school climate, and advance the student achievement priorities of the Local Control Accountability Plans.
How do summer programs teach these skills? Our summer educators develop positive relationships with students and help them develop and internalize their understanding of behavior and academic expectations. They create a low-pressure learning environment where risk-taking and effort pay off. And they teach these skills in a camp-like culture while on our school sites, so their beliefs and attitudes carry over into the regular school year.
As strong supporters of summer learning programs, we encourage our fellow school superintendents to read Putting Summer to Work and consult the Summer Matters campaign to discuss how summer learning can be implemented in a high quality, yet cost-effective, way in their district.
Learn more at http://summermatters2you.net.
(This post was written with Michael Berg, Superintendent of the Central Unified School District; Ron Carruth, Superintendent of the Whittier City School District; Jonathan Raymond, Superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District and Gary Yee, Superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District.)
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John Deasy is the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest school district.