Six Strategies for Building Your Summer Acceleration & Enrichment Program

Mar 28, 2024
Summer acceleration program Edmentum article

Designing plans that address unfinished learning in a pandemic-affected year is taking many different forms. While education news outlets and U.S. Department of Education recommendations are aflutter exploring the prospects of extended school days or school-year calendars, many district and school leaders’ eyes are also turning to summer programing for an extra boost.

While summer school is certainly not novel, summer school planning does beg the question—is it enough to offer the summer school options we traditionally have? The Ohio Department of Education Extended Learning FAQ offers a simple answer that will apply to many: “[Summer plans] should be driven by student needs; therefore, consideration should be given to doing more than the status quo in cases where the needs of students are beyond what is typical.”

With that in mind, we curated these learning recommendations that highlight six critical planning decisions for summer.

1. Impacted Students: How will schools and districts identify which students have been most impacted by the pandemic, with a focus on the most vulnerable populations?

Research is already showing greater learning-loss impacts for specific populations that can provide a good leading indicator of where you might find the highest needs with your school or district. Nearly 20 percent fewer kindergarteners were on track to learn how to read than their peers were at that time last year—a theme largely reported by others as well. In addition to significant gaps in the early elementary years, gaps across the board are especially pronounced for Black and Hispanic students. 

Data from 43 states shows that after years of academic interventions, more young students are reading on track than at any time since the pandemic began. The new data also show that Black and Hispanic students in many grades are improving faster than average, shrinking the academic gaps that had widened during school disruptions, however this is still an important focus this summer.

2. Needs Assessment: How will schools and districts identify, unpack, and target the nuanced needs of impacted students?

According to a study published by Nature Human Behavior featured in the New York Times, students lost 1/3 of a school year of learning to the pandemic, with learning dealys and regressions being the most severe among children from low-income backgrounds. We know the story of learning loss will be different for every student. This is where administering high-quality assessments to accurately diagnose students’ strengths, needs, and specific learning progress is essential. Begin each academic period with a proven diagnostic to inform your instruction and deliver personalized learning experiences for all.

3. Resources & Budget: What resources are available to address those needs?

Approved federal coronavirus funding streams allow for additional cash flow into summer programming that goes beyond previous years. Specifically from the CARES Act, the Elementary and Second School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, notes the following in allowable uses: “Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental afterschool programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months and addressing the needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.” Determine if your district has access to funds to set up an effective program.

Additionally, procuring teachers to lead summer school may be a difficult mountain to climb this year. With teacher unions and generally burned-out educators to contend with, some states are looking at community programs to help provide additional support.

4. Approaches & Instruction: What approaches can best be deployed to address those needs?

This past school year has challenged educators at all levels to get creative, leading with innovative approaches that employ technology to overcome physical distancing. With all the lessons learned, there’s much to take forward into your summer acceleration and enrichment programming. Whether your district decides to launch a full in-school option with busing and meals provided (as North Carolina recently approved) or you simply want to take the online learning programs you have today and encourage independent use over the summer, the myriad of options is extensive. Perhaps this summer would be best served by a mixed bag to attack different needs and family preferences.

5. Partnerships: Which partners can schools and districts engage with in supporting student needs?

Consider partnering with local and regional organizations, including libraries, museums, and after-school programs, in your community. These entities can often be well-versed in supporting K–12 students during the summer months. Other partners to prioritize include those that provide the educational programming you may already use or may be considering to use to augment your program’s reach and quality. In your search, consider how Edmentum combines proven programs and consulting to power your teaching practices.

6. Alignment: How can your summer-learning plan reinforce and align to other district and school programs?

In planning your summer programming, assessment and academic instruction grounded in understanding skill gaps and clawing back missed credits are likely the most obvious places to start. Additionally, make sure that these summer learning experiences connect back to other school programs and initiatives. Your plan should include attending to students’ personal and social development to support success of the whole learner. The pandemic put a microscope on the value of mental health and wellness education, making it no longer just a “nice to have” option, and every district in the nation would be remiss not to consider where this development will be integrated into the next school year’s learning. Personal and social development is just one example of an additional school program to consider, but others might include graduation plans, remote-learning plans, and tutoring.

Considering a combination of these six aspects to your summer-planning strategy will help ensure that you’re providing the highest-need students with a successful experience to address unfinished learning and setting up a more prosperous school year. Want to find out about how Edmentum can help support your summer planning? Check out our Summer Success & Planning Toolkit.

Get the latest education insights sent directly to your inbox

Subscribe to our Knowledge Articles