by Brenée Goforth
Media Manager & Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
North Carolina’s reaction to coronavirus was to end in-person instruction for school children across the state and transition instruction online. This transition has been spotty across the state with inconsistent implementation from school to school and from teacher to teacher. Overall, this will likely hamper children’s educational achievement for the school year.
Recently, Dr. Terry Stoops analyzed proposals to retain children for another year of school, and now he has written a research brief analyzing whether children should attend summer school to make up for lost progress. Stoops writes:
Summer school is another way to address student learning loss due to COVID-19 school closures. Proponents of summer school argue that a six-week session that begins in mid-July and concludes a week or more before the first day of school (to accommodate teacher workdays) would allow teachers to cover content missed from March to June. Presumably, subjects would be limited to the core subjects of math, English, science, and social studies. Depending on the circumstances, the courses would be taught online, in person, or a combination of the two. Participating public schools would provide special education and counseling services, as well as transportation and food service for face-to-face instruction.
This approach would require significant funding. Stoops explains:
In an article published by the Brookings Institution, Douglas Harris of Tulane University recommends that Congress set aside funding for schools based on the number of students that wish to participate in summer school. He estimates that employing 1 million (of the total 3 million) public school teachers to teach a six-week summer school session would cost $8.1 billion.
Questions of where that funding would come from still need to be answered. It would take organized preparation as well. Stoops writes:
Schools need sufficient time to hire teachers and staff, alert families of the summer session, and acquire instructional materials. If schools offer online summer instruction, school officials need time to ensure that participating students have a device and internet access. If schools choose in-person instruction, they need time to create bus drop-off and pick-up schedules and complete school building maintenance and cleaning. If the state waits until June to decide, then they risk conducting a summer session that resembles the haphazard migration to online learning initiated last month.
It may be more feasible and potentially more favorable to add time onto the 2020-2021 school year, instead. Stoops writes:
If educators believe that missed content could be covered by adding additional instructional time during the 2020-21 school year, then that may be a better option. Educators could use an uninterrupted summer break to collaborate with colleagues and prepare new and expanded lessons for the coming school year.