Build Your Summer: Why Should You Build Summer Programming?

Savannah WaszczukAccess Launch, Feature

If you build it, they will come. Now, we know what you’re thinking—summer school is often the last thing a student wants to do with their few months of freedom. And this may be true. But what if you redesigned your school’s summer programming to be available to students when they want it? What if your students didn’t have to show up to a seated classroom every day? What if students could still sleep in, work a summer job, go to camp and earn credits? Launch makes this all possible. And the best part is, you can still decide what to offer, and when to offer it. Read on to learn how Launch can help you create summer programming that is beneficial for both your school and your students.

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Prevent Summer Learning Loss

Summer learning loss is no secret—in fact, it’s continually validated with study after study, year after year. “In the summer following the third grade year, students experience 20 percent regression in the area of reading and 27% regression in the area of math,” says Dr. Ben Hackenwerth, Executive Director of Learning Support and Innovation at Springfield Public Schools (SPS).

Dr. Hackenwerth is quoting data from “Summer Learning Loss: What We Know and What We’re Learning,” an article by Megan Kuhfeld published on the Teach. Learn. Grow. education blog. “This particular study, which has been referenced for years and again recently validated, shows that the trend of summer learning loss compounds itself year after year,” Dr. Hackenwerth says. “The numbers grow to be much larger when students reach middle school. The summer after their seventh grade year, students lose 36% of their reading gains and 50% of their math gains.”

Springfield Public Schools decided to face this growing issue head on six summers ago. “We hosted focus groups for kids of different ages and asked what they liked or didn’t like about summer school,” says Dr. Hackenwerth. “And right away, we learned—don’t call it summer school.” After multiple focus groups and additional research, SPS created Explore, a summer program in which it offers students experience-based learning opportunities.

Explore offers elementary and middle school programming designed around field trips and other outdoor activities. It also includes online learning academies for elementary and middle school students in the areas of math, reading and coding. At the high school level, Explore offers students access to Launch’s entire virtual catalog. “We learned that the majority of high school students didn’t want to come and participate in a seated environment in the summertime,” Dr. Hackenwerth says. “They wanted to be able to work on their own time and at their own pace, around other activities.”

Before creating Explore, SPS averaged approximately 3,500 summer enrollments. After implementing the new program—which also expanded the months courses are offered from June only to June and July—the district has seen summer sessions that serve approximately 11,000 students.

Provide Middle School Remediation

Not long after partnering with Launch, the Fort Zumwalt school district was in search of opportunities for middle school students who were not successful in the traditional school year. “We really wanted students who failed in the regular school year to do some recovery of skills to get them ready for the next grade level,” says Mrs. Jennifer Waters, Fort Zumwalt’s Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction. “We came to Launch in search of this opportunity for our students.”

In summer 2019, Launch began offering middle school remediation courses. “One of our goals for Launch, as a program, was to offer as many opportunities as possible in the summer months,” says Dr. Nichole Lemmon, Director of Digital Learning at SPS. “Developing middle school remediation was something we had discussed before. Hearing this request from Fort Zumwalt helped us validate the need for middle school remediation in districts statewide.”

Launch currently offers remediation in core subject areas—English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies—for 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. In Fort Zumwalt’s experience, remediation proved to be successful, but it didn’t come without a bit of work on the district’s part. “We cannot force students to take summer courses, but we strongly recommended it and encouraged it,” Waters says. “It takes a lot of phone calls, a lot of working with parents and a lot of calling home.”

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PRO BUILDER'S TIP:
Offer summer school courses in both June and July to reach a larger student population and provide more flexibility.

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Allow High Schoolers expanded Opportunities

In many Launch districts, high school students elect to take courses that are required for graduation during the summertime. This provides more openings in their schedules in their traditional school year, which results in students taking classes they are passionate about. “We have really high enrollments in Health and Personal Finance in the summertime,” Dr. Lemmon says. “In Springfield, we’ve found this to create a lot of opportunity. Students make time for both band and choir, for example. Or they make time to participate in the CAPS program.”