Yes, winter has only just begun, but it’s never too early to start planning for summer. The warmer months will be here before you know it—and that means it’s time to get started on implementing plans for your summer school program.
The Summer School Boost
Educators know that a successful summer school program can be an effective defense against the “summer slide”— the learning loss that takes place during the summer vacation months that teachers must address every fall. Students can lose as much as two months of math skills and low-income youth typically lose two to three months of reading skills during this time. However, studies also show that a strong summer learning program can result in gains and that the effects of summer learning can last at least two years.
Learning gains are dependent, though, on a number of factors such as instructional quality, student attendance, and how well a program is grounded in best practices and sound strategies.
Key among those best practices is planning early. Seems obvious, right? But there are concrete benefits to having ample time for focused preparation.
Planning early gives you more opportunity to:
- Ensure high-quality curriculum and instruction
Identifying students’ needs and selecting the appropriate curriculum and resources takes review time and impacts plans for class structure and targeted instruction to meet curriculum and standards requirements. Getting an early start also gives teachers more time for training with the curriculum.
- Recruit your strongest team
According to the RAND Summer Learning Series report, “Getting to Work on Summer Learning: Recommended Practices for Success,” “hiring effective teachers and giving them the support they need are critical steps to maximizing student achievement.” Planning early gives you more time to recruit motivated, qualified teachers who have the appropriate grade-level and subject-matter experience, as well as to include staff and partners in your planning process.
- Establish a plan to boost and maintain attendance
Recent research commissioned by the Wallace Foundation confirms that summer school students who consistently attend benefit more. The Foundation’s site says, “the largest-ever study of summer learning finds that students with high attendance in free, five- to six-week, voluntary summer learning programs experienced educationally meaningful benefits in math and reading." Long story short, building enrollment and maintaining high attendance is key to a successful program. Early planning stages should include emphasis on establishing enrollment deadlines and a clear plan for attendance requirements and tracking, as well as consideration of enrichment activities that will engage students with curriculum and encourage regular attendance.
- Secure funding
According to the 2016 Funding Resource Guide developed by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) in consultation with the White House, U.S. Department of Education, and Civic Nation, summer learning providers need to “plan early to best synchronize timing for grant awards, school district budget cycles, and high-quality summer learning.” Estimating costs and investigating resources early in the year ensures more time to secure funding and to minimize costs.
For information on summer school resources, visit the HMH summer school site and our summer school resources Pinterest page.
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