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After many weeks away from their traditional school schedule, students across the country are starting to re-enter their classrooms and share stories of their summer vacations. Whether or not they know it yet, the way students spent their vacation days can play an enormous role in their future academic success as compared to their peers.

The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) defines summer learning loss as “the phenomenon where young people lose academic skills over the summer.” NSLA states summer learning loss “is one of the most significant causes of the achievement gap between lower and higher income youth and one of the strongest contributors to the high school dropout rate. For many young people, the summer ‘opportunity gap’ contributes to gaps in achievement, employment and college and career success.”

Summer enrichment opportunities are often prohibitively expensive for families. Sleepaway summer camps, college visits, and international trips are not possible for many students, and the academic gap widens at the start of the school year between those who were academically challenged over the summer and those who were not. School district leaders are aware of this, and many are taking active steps in raising awareness and developing programs that are accessible to every student, no matter their income level.

To combat summer learning loss, members of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools took the following steps: (1) created camps for all students to attend; (2) made technology and online resources available for students to pursue learning opportunities of their choosing; and (3) adjusted the academic calendar to limit the effect of summer learning loss.

Creating enrichment opportunities at the school-level

Vancouver Public Schools hosted a Girls Lead the Way summer robotics camp at McLoughlin Middle School. The camp, which has been open to middle school girls free of charge for the past six years, introduces students to robotics and coding and aims to curb the gender gap in STEM careers by building and maintaining interest at this critical age.

Rising kindergarteners through second graders at North Rowan Elementary School in Rowan Salisbury Schools participated in a three-week STEAM camp to jumpstart learning in the weeks before school.

Albemarle County Public Schools hosted a series of volunteer-run CoderDojo camps, where students learned how to code and create websites, apps, programs, and games. Students were also exposed to careers through company tours and guest lecturers from the field.

Making technology and online resources available throughout the year

Piedmont City School District offered a Summer Virtual Academy, in which high school and middle students earned high school credits with online classes, made possible by universal home Internet access provided by the district.

Mineola Union Free School District made iPads available to students all summer long. Coupled with high-quality online curriculum opportunities and requirements through programs like eSpark Learning, Mineola ensures all of its students have the opportunity (and expectation!) to learn throughout the summer.

In order to help prevent students from losing math skills over the summer, Mooresville Graded School District provided TenMarks Math to all K-6 students to address individual student gaps.

Adjusting the academic calendar

Students at Baltimore County Public Schools participated in the Extended Year Learning Program for credit recovery or advancement in a blended learning program over the summer. Students may work at their own pace through the mastery-based program, ensuring students only earn credit for work in which they have become competent. These credits transfer to their graduation requirements.

District of Columbia Public Schools adjusted the schedule of ten of its schools to subscribe to an Extended Year calendar, cutting summer vacation time, but providing more breaks to students throughout the year to eliminate the impact of extended time away from school.

For more information on the League of Innovative Schools, please visit our League map. Stay tuned for the announcement of the next cohort of the League later this fall.


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