The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruption to all levels of education that could impact student outcomes for months and possibly years ahead. As Tennessee educators continue to focus on students’ learning recovery in response to the pandemic, SCORE is sharing research-based strategies to aid in that recovery.  

The latest in these recovery strategies was a SCORE Institute focused on maximizing summer learning, which highlighted how to plan content for summer learning camps and included presentations of national findings and learnings from three Tennessee districts. In addition, SCORE released the Maximizing Summer Learning brief that looks at common challenges districts faced in establishing summer learning programs last year and offers practices and strategies that other districts found effective through that experience. 

The brief examines planning challenges, the purpose of summer learning programs and how to structure them, how to handle budgeting and staffing, as well as guidance for recruitment, enrollment, and attendance. The 75-minute institute featured Dr. Jennifer McCombs, senior policy researcher and director of the behavioral and policy sciences department at RAND Corporation — a national expert on the implementation and effectiveness of voluntary summer learning programs. In addition, leaders from three Tennessee school districts shared how they’re planning to make the most of summer learning camps for students. 

Research suggests that academic summer learning programs can be an effective strategy for addressing learning loss and accelerating student learning. Last year, in response to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Tennessee General Assembly established and funded two new kinds of summer learning programs for students: summer learning camps for rising first through fifth graders and learning loss bridge camps for rising sixth through eighth graders. Starting in 2023, third-grade students who are not proficient in English Language Arts (ELA) on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) will have the option to attend a learning loss bridge camp as one of several pathways to avoid retention. 

The most effective summer learning programs address key design principles, including duration, attendance, use of time, and quality of instruction. The brief outlines these principles to aid district leaders as they plan for this summer’s learning and bridge camps. The effectiveness of these programs depends on how they are designed and implemented. This spring offers leaders the opportunity to incorporate these design principles — as well as their learnings from last summer’s camps — to maximize learning for the students who need the most support. 

Dr. Richard Bailey is SCORE’s director of strategic practice and data.SCORE’s communications manager, Diane Hughes, contributed to this post.  

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