Is Summer School a Good Way to Recover Learning Loss?

Updated: Aug 10

The past school year has been unique in many ways. While the world has been turned upside down due to the Coronavirus, the educational sector has been one of the most affected. Classrooms have been empty, teachers have had to learn how to teach from a distance and students have struggled with keeping their motivation to study despite the disconnect. No one is probably surprised when the words learning loss are mentioned in a context like this, but how is this loss best counteracted?

Every day that passes more and more teachers get vaccinated. By the time summer school starts, could in-person teaching be the solution to the aforementioned problem? Is it something which can help students who have fallen behind catch up before the next school year starts? Should the government make an investment so that more students have the opportunity to do so?

In “Summer School Is a Hot Idea Right Now. Could It Work?” Dana Goldstein and Kate Taylor write that the idea seems logical and that:

Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia promoted the idea on Friday, saying that schools should make summer classes an option for families. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and Randi Weingarten, the powerful president of the American Federation of Teachers, have offered similar endorsements. Boston teachers and the district have started talking about summer options. And Mr. Biden is expected to ask Congress to approve $29 billion to fund summer programs and tutoring as part of his pandemic stimulus package.

But the article also brings up a few potential roadblocks. Due to local contracts, governors don’t have a lot of ways to compel districts to invest more into their summer offerings. According to these contracts teachers are typically not required to work over the summer aand it’s also something which a majority of them does not support, and even if this problem did not exist, these teachers would still have to be paid. At a time like this, budgets are already stretched thin. Handling the consequences of the pandemic is and has not been cheap.

According to the authors of the article, the president of the Fairfax Education Association, the teachers’ union in Virginia’s largest school system, Kimberly Adams states that the attitudes toward the possible extension of the school year have been very mixed. Parents want their children back in the classrooms while the teacher union fights to keep distance education for as long as it takes to vaccinate the teachers. The article also claims that these families are usually the ones to travel or send their children to camps during the summer so they are not really the ones affected by the decision.

The article also touches on how summer school can help close the academic gaps that exist due to economic disparities between students and the authors write:

Some education advocates hope that the disruption of the pandemic will help shift attitudes over the next several years, making it more palatable to help students who are struggling by keeping schools open over the summer, and by introducing longer school days and weeks all year round.

There is also a question whether the students who are indeed struggling will actually be motivated enough to close the gap to their classmates. Many who are still in school see the summer break almost as a human right. If these students are forced to go to summer school, they will probably not get so much value out of it.

To summarize, the question whether summer school is a smart way to make up for learning loss is quite complex. On one hand, potential pitfalls could be the access to teachers and the attitude toward the idea. On the other hand, we have students who need more education hours to catch up. What do you think? Should we make summer school more accessible to students or is there another solution to the problem?

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