Shaped: Will there be more professional development to help teachers address the particular challenges students face this school year?
Dan: You’re talking now not about students who may have failed Algebra 1 and need to take the course all over again; you’re talking about students who may have a significant deficit in all coursework because they haven't been in school, or the instruction they have been receiving isn't up to par. These challenges are going to require more personalized instruction to address each student's particular needs. There are districts that will be able to do that very well, and there are districts that won’t because they may not have the staff with the training. And they may not have the material that will work best for students.
The better approach to summer school would be to find out where the student is weak, and rather than reteach the entire course, focus on the areas of deficit for the individual student.
Shaped: How do you think the increased need for summer learning this year might change how schools approach staffing?
Dan: Even if school districts have the funds, staffing is going to be a challenge. A number of districts are already having issues where teachers are refusing to come in. That problem could easily continue into the summer months, especially since it's not typical for all teachers to continue working over the summer.
If districts don't have the staff for in-person instruction, they'll fall back on a hybrid model or, as a last recourse, remote learning. But that will be a district-by-district decision. Remote learning may be the easiest way to provide summer school since it doesn't require as much staff. If you're using synchronous and asynchronous instruction combined, it allows for more students to be served at the same time.
For urban areas with the largest concentration of students, it's going to be tougher. Most urban districts are still doing remote learning. They may continue with remote learning through the summer months while districts with fewer students will be able to do in-person learning. These children will basically get an extended school year that, instead of beginning in September, will begin in July.
Shaped: What role do you think technology or artificial intelligence may play in summer school this year and into the future?
Dan: There’s no question that even after the pandemic is under control, remote learning is here to stay. It won't be the only approach, but it will be used to support in-person learning. Throughout the course of the year—never mind just the summer—remote learning will be available for students after school, on weekends, and during vacations.
The asynchronous instruction, where it's not a live teacher but the student working through a pre-packaged lesson, could be delivered by AI software that interacts with students. That software is available already. Obviously, that’s a plus because it minimizes the staffing needed to do the kind of work that we're talking about. But AI is not abundant enough in all areas to make it practical.
We understand that addressing the interrupted learning of this past school year presents a challenge for educators everywhere. This article is part of a series of resources focused on COVID learning recovery and designed to help you plan now for summer school and next year.