In the second installment of my series “School During the Pandemic,” I want to discuss how we can keep kids learning at all costs. As I mentioned in the first installment, my focus was on how to switch my school to the virtual world. Now that we have finished our school year, the need to keep providing our scholars with the opportunity to learn is needed more than ever.
We know there will be a summer slide. Even after the best of school years, you can expect a summer slide. Anytime you have children at home for nine-plus weeks without the consistency of learning, there can be some expected academic loss. Summer slide often sees no color or socioeconomics. Summer slide impacts a wide range of students. This summer will be like no summer we have seen. Assuming school resumes in a traditional form of students learning in a school building in August, you will have some students who will have not received consistent teaching and learning since March. We are talking about fifteen weeks of being at home and not learning.
As we were closing out our school year, we begin discussing whether or not to hold summer school. The money was there, and we had the structure in place to do summer school. For some reason, I was on the fence about summer school. I was thinking about the teachers who persevered through virtual learning. We asked a lot from our teachers. Some of my teachers had children at home and was balancing parenting, along with the job’s full-time demands. My teachers were teaching four days out the week. Holding office hours with scholars and spending some of their evenings on the phone with parents catching them on what their scholars had been learning, so they could do some reinforcement. Thinking about how hard I had pushed my teachers during the past six weeks, I could not see myself asking some of them to commit another four weeks. I wrestled with the idea of summer school. Then, a text from a mentor helped me. He said the words that had gotten me through the previous nine weeks, “Keep kids learning at all costs.” He was right; we had the funds and the technology to do it, so why not do it. Also, after sending out a text to a few teachers, I realized that they wanted to do it, and the parents wanted it, too. Our children deserved it because, honestly, four to six weeks of a summer break would be a lot better than nine to eleven weeks of summer break of not learning.
As we began to think about summer school, we made a few adjustments from our original virtual learning plan. The most significant adjustment we made was to how instruction would be delivered. We moved from what synchronous learning that saw students log on live for the lesson at the same time to asynchronous learning, in which students will learn the same material just at different times. Teachers will not prerecord lessons and post them. This will give students more independence to at-bats at work. The teachers will be available for students if they need help. Teachers will be required to meet one on one with each student. Instead of grades during summer school, our focus will be on standard and skill mastery. When scholars submit assignments, teachers will grade and give feedback that scholars must use to make corrections. We will provide pre and post-assessment.
Our summer school program will run for four weeks. We hope that for our neediest scholars in grades third through sixth, we can do our best to continue closing the learning gap and shorten the summer slide gap by extending learning access and opportunity to learn through June. Only time will tell how much of an impact Covid-19 had on the learning of our scholars. We hope that we have done enough to limit the effect.
Be on the lookout for the third and final installment of this series. In the third installment, I will provide details of our plan to re-open our school in the Fall.