5 Strategies for Building Your 2021 Summer Acceleration and Enrichment Program

Designing plans that address unfinished learning in a pandemic-affected year is taking many different forms. While education news outlets and Government Education department recommendations are exploring the prospects of extended school days or school-year calendars, many school leaders’ eyes are also turning to summer programming for an extra boost.

While summer school is certainly nothing new, 2021 summer school planning does beg the question—is it enough to offer the traditional summer options? Should schools consider a different approach?

We can all agree that this summer will follow a far-from-typical school year. With that in mind, we’ve explored the summer learning recommendations of several education agencies to bring six critical planning decisions you should be thinking about to the forefront.

1. Impacted Students: How will schools identify which students have been most impacted by the pandemic, with a focus on the most vulnerable populations?

Research is already showing a greater need to catch up for specific populations that can provide a good leading indicator of where you might find the highest needs with your school. In a recently published DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) 8th edition study from Amplify, 20 percent fewer kindergarteners are on track to learn how to read than their peers were this time last year—a theme largely reported by others as well. In addition to significant gaps in the early elementary years, gaps across the board are especially pronounced for Black and Hispanic students.

2. The need for Assessment: How will schools identify, unpack, and target the nuanced needs of impacted students?

While according to McKinsey & Company research, cumulative learning loss by June 2021 could be substantial—amounting to students being between four to nine months behind on average—we know how much students will need to catch up will be different for every individual. This is where administering high-quality assessments to accurately diagnose students’ strengths, needs, and specific learning progress is essential. Begin each academic period with a proven diagnostic to inform your instruction and deliver personalized learning experiences for each student.

3. Approaches and Instruction: What approaches can best be deployed to address those needs?

This school year has challenged educators at all levels to get creative, leading with innovative approaches that employ technology to overcome social distancing. With all the lessons learned, there’s much to take forward into your summer acceleration and enrichment programming. Whether your school decides to launch a full in-school option with transport and meals provided or you simply want to take the online learning programs you have today and encourage independent use over the summer, the myriad of options is extensive. Perhaps this summer would be best served by using a blend of methods to target different needs and family preferences.

4. Partnerships: Which partners can schools engage with in supporting student needs?

Consider partnering with local and regional organizations, including libraries, museums, and after-school programs, in your community. These entities can often be well-versed in supporting K–12 students during the summer months. Other partners to prioritize include those that provide the educational programming you may already use or may be considering to use to augment your program’s reach and quality. In your search, consider how Edmentum International combines proven programs and consulting to power your teaching practices.

5. Alignment: How can your summer-learning plan reinforce and align to other school programs?

In planning your summer programming, assessment and academic instruction grounded in understanding skill gaps and clawing back missed credits are most likely the obvious places to start. Additionally, make sure that these summer learning experiences connect back to other school programs and initiatives. Your plan should include attending to students’ social-emotional learning (SEL) to support the success of the whole learner. The pandemic has drawn attention to the value of mental health and wellness education, making it no longer just a “nice to have” option, and every school would be remiss not to consider where SEL will be integrated into the next school year’s learning. SEL is just one example of an additional school program to consider, but others might include graduation plans, remote-learning plans, and tutoring.

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