States Explore How Summer Learning Can Mitigate COVID-19 Slide

By Joseph Hedger

As the 2019–20 school year comes to a close, many states are looking to summer school to combat the learning loss from coronavirus-related school closures. An April NWEA report projects that students will return to school in fall 2020 with roughly 70 percent of the expected learning gains in reading from a typical school year and less than 50 percent of the gains in mathematics—nearly a full year behind. States that already looked to summer school to stem the “summer slide” have responded with additional guidance on opportunities for summer learning and enrichment as well as expanded programs and supports.

The Colorado Department of Education put out guidance on continued learning opportunities through summer 2020. They suggest districts begin by identifying the purpose they intend for their summer school: remediation/credit recovery; acceleration/enrichment of student learning; social connection and support; teacher training/professional development; fall program planning; and/or work-based learning opportunities. From there, the guidance provides tips on funding sources, development, and implementation.

With Governor Tate Reeves’s Executive Order 1476, school districts in Mississippi must provide summer learning and enrichment measures to all students in all schools to help mitigate disruption in learning due to the coronavirus-related closures and prepare for the 2020–21 school year. The state’s department of education created a template for the District Learning-at-Home and Summer Enrichment Plan and asked districts to submit their plans to the state board of education by May 15.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education convened a Summer School Task Force in April, comprising school leaders from across the state, to discuss summer school options consistent with public health guidance. They made three recommendations on how to best support schools as they develop their summer school plans:

  1. provide maximum flexibility to schools;
  2. provide clear expectations for summer learning; and
  3. provide clear expectations for virtual summer school.

The task force also compiled questions and answers for districts on summer school 2020 covering starting dates and rules, transportation and virtual instruction, and expectations.

South Carolina’s AcceleratED Task Force, which includes a member from the state board, has been mulling how to educate students amidst COVID-19. In their April meeting, the 12-member group discussed expanding the summer school program, especially geared toward K-3 students at risk for reading and math difficulty, to physically meet in July so students without internet or technology would have no issues with access. Virtual learning remains a backup plan.

The West Virginia Department of Education released an information sheet on free summer learning opportunities for students and teachers that includes professional learning options for teachers, delivery of high-quality reading materials for early elementary students through a partnership with Marshall University’s June Harless Center and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, and virtual summer school and credit recovery for students through the West Virginia Virtual School.