Schools should build on summer learning successes from ‘21
January 24, 2022
A new report finds summer learning programs were a bright spot for California schools in 2021, revealing promising practices that can be used this summer and beyond.
The report “Summer 2021: How California educators met the moment with re-engagement, reconnection, and reimagined learning” from Partnership for Children & Youth highlights key takeaways drawn from interviews and surveys with school and district leaders, statewide data and media reports.
Research has shown that high-quality summer learning programs can reduce educational and wellness inequities by leveraging and expanding learning time outside the school day.
Coming out of a year of COVID-19 distance learning and its impacts to the academic and mental wellness of students, Summer 2021 represented a “turning point” in how education and policy leaders thought about summer learning.
“Unlike many education issues over the last year, there was agreement across parents, policymakers, and school leaders that summer 2021 should prioritize enrichment and wellness,” according to the report. “Summer programs were not framed as ‘summer school.’ Instead, state policy leaders — including the Governor — framed 2021 as ‘the summer of joy.’”
Of the districts surveyed, 88 percent provided summer programs for students in 2021. Over 70 percent of survey respondents provided wellness, enrichment and/or mental health supports.
“I think our main philosophy regarding summer, and not just about the enrichment, [is] just really try and make learning fun,” said Cynthia Chin, Ravenswood City Elementary School District, who was quoted in the report. “So, even our academic program [had] a bit more hands-on activities.”
Researchers found six trends in summer programs and highlighted best practices from districts that were surveyed:
  1. Programs promoted student engagement, social-emotional learning and mental health by focusing on outdoor play, student choice of activities and fostering a summer camp culture.
  2. Schools prioritized students who needed programs most by reaching out directly, waiving fees and structuring schedules to support working families.
  3. Schools also leveraged the smaller class sizes, which were set by COVID class ratios, to integrate hands-on learning and provide individualized academic interventions.
  4. Districts leaned on partners to provide staffing, field trips, nutrition support and staff mental wellness training. Some districts hired coordinators to organize their partnerships.
  5. Summer learning provided time and space for professional development that benefits learning year-round. Teachers had time to try out new curriculum and served in leadership roles that built their capacity.
  6. Even with funding, staffing shortages required districts to think creatively — some hired high school students or worked with unions to modify job descriptions that would allow staff to work in multiple roles.
“Due to the ongoing increased funding, more time to plan and secure staff, and increased access to vaccines, summer 2022 will be even bigger and better.”
Based on the findings, the report says administrators can build on the successes of 2021 with the following recommendations:
  • Begin planning for summer during winter 2021-22 by aligning decision making deadlines to school budgeting calendars and by ensuring essential internal and external partners are around the table from the beginning.
  • Prioritize investing in human capital and partnerships by allocating resources to support competitive wages, recruiting staff early, building robust professional development and identifying a partnership liaison.
  • Take advantage of the increased and unrestricted funding and public/political will for new schooling approaches to design programs that promote year-round learning, leverage technology advancements and think outside the box.
“Due to the ongoing increased funding, more time to plan and secure staff, and increased access to vaccines, summer 2022 will be even bigger and better,” according to the report. “However, ongoing leadership and action at the local, regional, and state levels will be required to ensure summer learning programs have the greatest impact on as many students and families as possible.”
Read the Report
Find the full report online.
Contact Us
© 2022 Association of California School Administrators