By Aaron Philip Dworkin, Chief Executive Officer at NSLA
Summer school. The term is often associated with all things remedial, boring, mandatory, punitive, and, in many cases, inequitable. However, summer school options are a seemingly well-intentioned new focus for many state legislatures and school districts looking at expanded learning time as an allowable use of education funds within the COVID-19 relief bills.
Many national education experts, community leaders, funders, and researchers—including McKinsey & Company, The Education Trust, and Northwest Evaluation Association—have all highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on education and the urgent need for our nation to leverage the proven benefits of summer learning and out-of-school time (OST) as an essential strategy in America’s recovery and students’ long-term success.
The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) believes summer is a time for:
- Innovation: Summer offers an opportunity for school districts, community partners, municipal leaders, and OST providers to improve school-year teaching and learning by testing new curricula, technology, and instructional strategies before scaling.
Inspiration: Learning happens anywhere and anytime, and summertime offers a chance to individualize learning and explore project-based experiences that help students acquire a deeper knowledge of themselves and the world around them.
- Integration: Summer provides an opportunity to break down systemic and community silos to create a true safety net that equitably supports every learner’s academic and social-emotional needs and well-being.
- Impact: Recent research from the 2019 reports, “Shaping Summertime Experiences: Opportunities to Promote Healthy Development and Well-Being for Children and Youth,” funded by The Wallace Foundation and released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and “Investing in Successful Summer Programs: A Review of Evidence Under the Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA), from the Rand Corporation, offer conclusive evidence that summer is an opportunity to close academic gaps while promoting healthy development and well-being for all students to thrive. In a systematic review conducted by the Rand Corporation, more than 40 of 43 rigorously evaluated summer programs showed positive impacts on at least one youth outcome, ranging from reading fluency to increased social and emotional skills and GPA.