3 steps for beefing up summer to counter learning loss

Key to creating programs is collaboration—schools for the academics community organizations for the summer camp
By: | March 17, 2021
District leaders do not have to start from scratch when developing engaging summer programs to tackle COVID learning loss. (AdobeStock/New Africa)District leaders do not have to start from scratch when developing engaging summer programs to tackle COVID learning loss. (AdobeStock/New Africa)

Combatting COVID learning loss will require more engaging summer learning programs that offer students a hybrid of school and summer camp, Jim Wooten says.

“Otherwise, kids won’t come, and even if they do come, they won’t learn,” says Wooten, the chairman of SAIL Alabama, an organization that helps schools and communities design summer learning programs.

A key to creating these programs is collaboration by experts—schools on the academic side and community organizations on the summer camp side, he says.

Also, district leaders looking to develop new programs do not have to start from scratch. They can reach out to other districts as well as nonprofits and other providers to find models for more engaging summer programs, Wooten says.

More on summer school: How Kalamazoo Public Schools expands the concept of summer learning

“Summer learning loss has been on people’s radar for a long time,” Wooten says. “When covid loss came in, with kids losing up to a full year’s worth or progress, it began to dawn on them that there’s no way solve the problem during the school day.”

Ideally, summer programs would offer 70 hours of academics over four to six weeks, with school in the morning and camps activities in the afternoon that reinforce classroom learning, Wooten says.

“You would do gardening and also have students keep a journal and build in math exercises,” he says. ” You’re introducing fun into the classroom in the morning and you’re introducing academics into the fun in the afternoon.”

Wooten recommends the following three steps for district administrators who want to create new summer programs:

  1. Look for partners: Administrators should look for quality summer camps with a light academic component. Districts can partner with these program to provide access to classrooms, computers and other ed-tech.
  2. Share data: Administrators can share data with summer camp partners so programs can focus on the skills students need most.
  3. Spend the time and effort: Developing new summer programs requires a leader or organization to take the lead in  job to organizing the partners. The ideal person or organization—such as a community foundation or philanthropist—would have strong relationships throughout the community.

“When you bring everyone together, you quickly discover that they are all struggling with the same problems,” Wooten says, “Communities working all together can solve problem more easily than an individual program can.”

More from DA: Why early grades are one district’s COVID recovery focus