Home LearningDid You Know? How to Accelerate Learning During Summer 2022

How to Accelerate Learning During Summer 2022

by Eddie Rayner

By Dr Gene Kerns, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer, Renaissance

Time away from school during the summer definitively impacts student performance, particularly for those who are otherwise disadvantaged. Right? Many of us have heard that it’s summer, not the regular school year, that contributes the most to gaps in performance.

If all students are either learning more slowly or regressing when they are away from school, then summer is an occasion to offer programmes and support for students who are at the lower end of performance and help them to catch up. If educators can help them progress faster while other students are slowing down, achievement gaps can be lessened.

Teachers and schools can plan for students’ summer 2022 learning experiences by thinking about initiatives ranging from the required and highly structured to the optional and less structured. While some programmes may take the form of mandatory summer school, all of these reflect important forms of learning during the summer months.

Let’s explore three options.

Summer learning reflects a unique opportunity to close achievement gaps

1. Formal summer school (including High-Dosage Tutoring and Acceleration Academies)

At this most intense level of summer programming, participation may be highly encouraged or even required, because the students served are typically performing significantly off grade-level expectations. There has been a recent and important shift in the thinking about how to best address the instructional needs of such students. This is captured in the mantra, “accelerate, don’t remediate,” and is based on instructional approaches gathered under the umbrella term Accelerated Learning. The primary emphasis of accelerated learning is maximising the time students spend with grade-level content. This is achieved through a purposeful consideration of essential grade-level skills and targeted, “just-in-time” instruction and support for any necessary prerequisites, rather than more indiscriminate “just-in-case” review or remediation. The challenge is that this approach requires detailed knowledge of both essential grade-level skills and necessary prerequisites. Renaissance’s free Focus Skills Resource Centre provides detailed information on both fronts, and these resources have recently been expanded to include Focus Skills for Spanish reading as well.

Implementing accelerated learning also requires up-to-date student assessment data. An understanding of where students are academically and how they are progressing is critical. Users of Renaissance Star Assessments who close out the core academic year with spring screening will begin summer school with data on student performance – as well as up-to-date instructional planning information – already available. Time is of the essence with summer learning, and new Star users trying out the assessment for the first time will find it to be not only highly reliable and valid, but also capable of providing information in the shortest amount of time of any leading interim assessment.

For many students, summer learning doesn’t mean a required ‘summer school’ experience

2. Summer enrichment programmes

For many students, summer learning doesn’t mean a required ‘summer school’ experience. Their needs may not be as great, and it’s possible that your capacity to accommodate learners in summer school is limited. Less intense but still very meaningful programmes can take a variety of forms and can even be provided by community partners. When informed and supported, community partners can provide and facilitate dedicated daily time for reading and/or math practice using Renaissance products like myON, Freckle, Lalilo, and Accelerated Reader.

Other students might not attend school-based or community partner programming daily, but even weekly check-ins with teachers or others can be of tremendous help in sustaining motivation and providing feedback. For example, ‘Math Mornings’ once per week where students come into school buildings to review their independent practice in Freckle and participate in power lessons and math games focused on essential skills – the Focus Skills I mentioned earlier.

Similarly, the public library might facilitate a reading club each Monday and Friday where students can take Accelerated Reader quizzes and experience read-alouds. Many districts build myON Projects – a collection of digital texts on a common topic or theme, with embedded reading and writing activities – which could be the focus of group discussions and activities when students meet with others

From math camps and reading clubs to summer initiatives organised in partnership with community organisations, the goal of enrichment programmes is to keep students engaged in learning, ensuring that summer is a season of continued growth, rather than one of any possible ‘slide’.

For many students, summer learning doesn’t mean a required ‘summer school’ experience

3. Independent summer learning

Schedules, priorities, or even location might prevent some students from participating in more formal programmes, but with a few supports, an independent summer learning experience can be a useful option as well.

From at-home reading and math activities to DIY challenges, independent learning – which includes targeted reading and math practice – can help maintain and even grow students’ skills over the summer months, particularly essential Focus Skills. Using technology to support this learning offers several key benefits. For example, many digital products like Freckle are adaptive, meaning that they respond and adjust to students’ needs in real-time, a capability well beyond static, paper-based activities. These programmes’ interactive and visual nature is also more engaging than paper and pencil. Finally, digital resources typically provide teachers, families, and even students with ongoing feedback about how much students are engaging and how well they are performing when they do.

Summer learning reflects a unique opportunity to close achievement gaps. In an era when so many things are out of educators’ control, a well-planned and thoughtful summer learning programme is something we can build to help get students back on track. Paul von Hippel notes that “every summer offers children who are behind a chance to catch up.” He adds that even if the scale of the summer slide is smaller than we think, and if “gaps don’t grow much during summer vacations, summer vacations still offer a chance to shrink them.” This summer, let’s make the most of the opportunity before us.

Learn more about Renaissance and its ongoing popularity worldwide, serving over 50,000 schools in more than 90 countries with its unrivalled portfolio of products and a catalogue of success stories that make it stand out in the crowded educational landscape.