Summer school – long a staple of K-12 education – may be in shorter supply this year.
Despite the limitations of distance learning, only 61 of 100 districts across the country queried in a recent survey have so far said they plan to offer summer school to help bridge the education gap.
The survey, conducted by the Center for Reinventing Public Education, covered 50 states plus Washington, D.C. and included 30 of the nation’s largest school districts.
In California, eight of nine districts reviewed will offer some summer school options, including Fresno Unified, Long Beach Unified, Los Angeles Unified, Oakland Unified, San Francisco Unified, San Diego Unified, Santa Ana Unified and Stockton Unified.
Researchers said they were curious to see if districts would expand their offerings or try new approaches, given the limitations of distance learning as a result of Covid-19. But they found that many districts instead were reducing their offerings and sticking with the same distance learning methods they used in the spring, said research analyst Sean Gill of the Center. There could be a variety of reasons for this, he added, including budget constraints, lack of devices and internet access for students, other planning priorities for fall and limited interest in virtual learning from families.
“I would say it is a missed opportunity to innovate,” said Gill. “But we also know that districts have a lot on their plates right now. I don’t know if there was a ton of demand from parents for summer school. We’ve heard anecdotally that the parents are tired, too. So, if it was going to be a virtual option, I don’t know if parents demanded that.”
Thirty-nine districts nationwide have not yet announced plans to offer summer school — including Sacramento City Unified, which had initially expected to announce its plans in the spring.
The report did not note whether or not the districts it surveyed had offered summer school in the past. Gill said this was the first time the researchers had collected this information and that the report was based on a review of districts’ websites.
The districts could have had the chance “to implement different, better learning environments this summer in preparation for the fall, or to address the impact of critical learning time students may have lost this spring,” said the researchers in their analysis. The nonpartisan center is part of the University of Washington Bothell, a satellite campus of the University of Washington. They created a database of 100 districts and 18 charter management organizations that includes information about summer school plans, as well as links to the districts’ websites.
Only four of the 18 charter management organizations reviewed planned to provide summer school for elementary or middle school students and five expected to offer it to high school students. The three charter management organizations in California — KIPP Northern California, KIPP Southern California and Summit Public Schools – had not yet announced summer school plans.
Their report highlighted summer school options in the Fresno, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Diego districts as examples of programs that offer students opportunities that are lacking in other districts.
The report noted that Oakland is offering “a hybrid program at certain schools, with academic intervention in the mornings taught by certificated district teachers and enrichment activities in the afternoons led by community agencies.”
Among districts surveyed, 17 are coordinating their summer programs in partnership with other community organizations, according to the report.
“Our summer learning programs will provide targeted support and continued learning opportunities for the K-12 students that are recommended for these programs by their schools,” said Sondra Aguilera, chief academic officer for Oakland Unified, in a May 27 message to the district community. “Students will receive intervention focused on literacy and math, along with afternoon enrichment opportunities to help them stay active and connected, even in a distance learning format.”
In addition, Oakland Unified is offering credit recovery to high school students, with priority for seniors who had not completed their graduation requirements by the end of the regular school year. They will be able to retake up to four classes over the summer and graduate with the class of 2020 if they complete them successfully.
Although 74% of the districts planning to offer summer school to high school students will provide it virtually, San Diego Unified is the only district in California surveyed that plans to provide in-person credit recovery and remediation classes for teens, Gill said.
Los Angeles Unified is working with a variety of partners throughout the city to offer “integrated theme units” for students in grades K-12 in subjects such as computer coding, environmental science and sports medicine. The district has distributed devices to nearly every student, according to Superintendent Austin Beutner.
This is the first time the state’s largest school district has offered summer school to all kids – K-12 – and about 80,000 students have enrolled. In addition to the basics like English and math, the district is offering programs such as guitar/ukulele classes taught by Fender Guitar; virtual cooking classes taught by a professional chef; space exploration taught in conjunction with the Columbia Memorial Space Center; and Titanic, which will feature director James Cameron.
Fresno Unified is referring students to its summer academy for reading and math intervention and credit recovery classes based on grades, credits and learning loss identified in the fourth quarter, the researchers found. It is also offering a summer camp including remote learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, known as “STEAM,” along with career development for any interested students. And, like many districts, it is providing an extended school year program to students with special needs.
Both Long Beach Unified and San Francisco Unified plan to offer virtual credit recovery classes to high school students during the summer. And Santa Ana Unified, Gill said, will offer some summer programs such as virtual career technical education opportunities to high school students and a K-8 virtual enrichment program.
The researchers are continually updating their database as they learn of new programs not previously announced, Gill said.
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