COVID-19 was unequivocally bad for education; however, some of the things it has revealed and indirectly caused could be good in the long-run. Expanded summer school is one of those discoveries.
Riding the fears of the lost learning due to coronavirus in conjunction with the typical fears of the well-established summer-slide, there has been a wave of political will towards summer remediation. It isn’t just lip service either. Districts and other partners are putting their money where their mouth is in order to make summer school happen. Many teachers are getting paid more in the summer than they do during the regular school year, which is crazy when you consider the fact that they are technically teaching less.
This desire for summer school isn’t one sided either. Enrollment for summer school is surging. Parents have heard the talk about lost learning and the summer slide and want to help their children avoid it. This is a far cry from the days when summer school was perceived as the sole dominion children with behavior and academic problems.
It is easy to see why districts got behind the idea of increased summer school this year. However, it is hard to understand why they don’t have this same energy every year. This of course is not a blanket statement for every place, but in general summer school expansion has not been a priority. This is odd because all some people ever talk about is the “achievement gap.” One would think if there was such a pronounced gap over years there would be more resources devoted to closing it in the off-season.
I have never been a fan of the achievement gap messaging, but every year I have students that could use some remediation. There also high achieving students that could use some enrichment. Summer school is a better option for parents. In addition to being free and solving the ever-important summer childcare problem, students are in a setting they know with adults and students they know. Schools are better equipped to teach kids over summer than a summer camp because the instructors typically already know the students.
A lot of this money that is being used to sponsor this summer school expansion is a onetime based on COVID-19 related grants. It shouldn’t be. Students and families should always have free school-based remediation and enrichment options available to them. The obvious concern is teacher burnout, but the number of kids that elect this option will always be significantly less than the capacity of the school. Additionally, it doesn’t look like schools are having trouble finding people to fill those roles. Many teachers have other summer jobs anyway.
Just like closing the digital divide, offering summer education is something we should have been doing before.