Summer School and Learning Loss Recovery Going Forward
APS has in the past
indicated that the summer program would be a significant means of addressing the needs of students who suffered from virtual instruction. Indeed, of the ARP funds that APS identified
as dedicated to learning loss recovery, two thirds was devoted to the summer program. Yet that program served only 10% of the student population, and is described as “low efficacy” and insufficient to recover a full year’s worth of instruction. If students’ learning loss cannot be sufficiently recovered through the summer program, how does APS intend to make up the 4-6 months
of instruction students are behind on average? And given its own assessment of the APS summer program, what does APS intend to do to improve that program? As Secretary Miguel Cardona has stated
: “The summer learning experiences we’re talking about now really need to be better than they ever were in the past.”
Increase Instructional Time.
APS must find additional means to address the learning loss from this past year. That might include full-day summer school classes, extending the length of the summer school program, or offering multiple sessions of summer school (as was done in Arlington
Texas). Indeed, the U.S. Department of Education Covid-19 handbook
recommends that summer programs be “full-day lasting five to six weeks.” Unfortunately, APS’ presentation to the Board proposed a summer program of the same length (four weeks at elementary, 5 weeks at secondary), and same half-day duration. If APS does not intend to extend instructional time during the summer, it should set forth a plan to provide additional instructional time during the school year, including intensified tutoring, extended school days, extended school year, and double-dosing of certain topics. Unfortunately, the school calendar recently proposed for next year
continues with APS’ policy of offering just a few hours more than the minimum required by the State.
Ensure Sufficient Staffing and Increase Participation.
APS should find a way to increase participation among APS students in the summer program. At a minimum, APS must not be in a position again of having to turn away students needing those services due to a lack of sufficient teachers. To its credit, APS stated during this week’s Board presentation that it intended to be proactive in recruiting teachers, it would provide funding for incentives for teachers as it did in 2021, and it would provide a curriculum and resources (which was prepared last year) so that teachers would not have to write their own lesson plans. Yet, except for proactive recruiting, those steps were largely undertaken this last year, producing equivocal results. At a minimum, APS should commit to having sufficient teachers lined up by March so that it can proactively expand its summer program, and can reassure parents that it will have sufficient teachers to staff the program this year. If APS runs into challenges in staffing the program with teachers from APS and the surrounding districts, it should expand the scope of its search.
This next year will mark the third year that APS has not provided enrichment options for its summer students. We don’t fault APS for prioritizing its resources this year on the critical need for recovery services. But this should not become the new normal. As Dr. Kanninen noted during the November 16 Board meeting, new credit opportunities for summer students can be an important means to create additional space for electives. In the recent past (2018 and 2019), APS offered over a dozen summer school enrichment opportunities that served hundreds of students each summer, including for example Google Lit Trips, the Leadership Academy, Introduction to Algebra, Summer Literacy Academy, blended Algebra II, and many others. Offering those enrichment courses permits a broader set of APS students to participate in summer learning opportunities, and also helps level the playing field with those who can afford private summer learning opportunities. An additional benefit: offering an expanded set of summer instruction may help alleviate the stigma some students feel taking summer school classes. Ms. O’Grady explained that even before the pandemic APS moved to discontinue enrichment programming
due to challenges in retaining sufficient teachers. Such excuses should not be acceptable. APS – like any top tier school system – must find a way to overcome such challenges; not shrink from them.
Partnering with the County or Community Organizations
. APS should also consider partnering with the County, or with community organizations to provide a hybrid instructional/recreational programming day. For example
, in New York City, the school system partnered with the Department of Youth & Community Development to offer a hybrid program, with morning academics led by schools followed by recreational activities in the afternoon. Similarly, Miami-Dade partnered
with multiple non-profits to expand educational and enrichment opportunities. APS could partner with the County Department of Parks and Recreation to create day-long programs that would offer instruction in the morning, and recreation in the afternoon. Such a program would both be more enticing for students, and also make it easier for working parents to enroll their students in such programs.
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