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Special Report

Summer 2021: How Schools Can Make the Most of It

April 28, 2021
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Finally—after yet another school year dominated by COVID-19’s anxieties, uncertainties, and logistical nightmares—educators and students get their long-awaited summer break.

What should they do with it?

In addition to time for a deep breath and well-deserved respite, summer 2021 offers space for reflection, rejuvenation, and retooling. Done right, it’s a chance to bone up on skills that would have been handy over the last few months—and which could make the coming school year smoother and more rewarding for everybody.

With that in mind, Education Week journalists report on 3 big issues specific to the needs of students, teachers, and school leaders for this moment:
  • How school districts are customizing traditional summer-learning programs in ways that strike a balance between students' academic and enrichment needs, including a strong focus on their social-emotional well-being,
  • What teachers and principals most need from professional development this summer after the trauma and disruption of this past year, and
  • How district and school leaders can use strategies already well-honed by some of their peers and leaders in the business world to make decisions in an ongoing environment of uncertainty and complexity.

The reporting includes videos, practical tips, and information resources aimed at making the upcoming summer break both restorative and productive.

Reporters: Kevin Bushweller, Elizabeth Heubeck, Andrew Ujifusa
Video Producers: Jacklyn Borowski, Eric Harkleroad, Emma Patti Harris
Designers/Visual Artists: Laura Baker, Emma Patti Harris, Vanessa Solis
Web Producer: Emma Patti Harris
Project Editor: Mark W. Bomster
Visuals Project Editor: Emma Patti Harris
Series Editor: Lesli A. Maxwell

Source List: Education Week spoke to many experts for this installment. They are: Robin Berlinsky, executive director, Engaging Creative Minds, North Charleston, S.C.; Shari L. Camhi, superintendent, Baldwin Union Free School District, Baldwin, N.Y.; Melanie Claxton, coordinator, Out-of-School Time, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Adam Clemons, principal, Piedmont High School, Piedmont, Ala.; Michael W. Curran-Hays, executive director, TregoED; Aaron Dworkin, CEO, National Summer Learning Alliance, Washington, D.C.; Kathleen Eisenhardt, co-author, Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World and the S.W. Ascherman MD Professor of strategy, Stanford University’s school of engineering; David Finkle, language arts teacher, DeLand HIgh School,DeLand, Fla.; Mark Finstrom, chief technology officer, Highline Public Schools, Wash.; Sergio Garcia, senior manager of learning systems, Big Thought, Dallas, Texas; Lachandra Garrison, 2nd-grade teacher and teacher leader, Bahrain Elementary School, Juffair, Manama, Bahrain; Matthew Hathaway, founder & president, Teachers in the Parks, Wyomissing, Pa.; Sheri Henkel, president, North Shore Education Association; Michael Hinojosa, superintendent, Dallas Independent School District; John J-H Kim, senior lecturer, Harvard Business School and CEO, District Management Group; Michael Lubelfeld, superintendent, North Shore School District 112, Ill.; Jeaneen R. Schmidt, executive coach & facilitator; Victor Shandor, superintendent, York County School Division, Va.; Alicia S. Tate, director of leadership services, TregoED; Emily Ullman, director of community engagement & partnerships, Salem Public Schools, Salem, Mass.; Jim Wichman, principal, Prairie Ridge Middle School, Ankeny Community School District, Ankeny, Iowa; Heather Young, principal, Tabb Middle School, York County, Va.

Documents: “Operating in a VUCA World” by Raymond J. McNulty, School Administrator (August 2020); Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World by Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt (2015); Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2011); TregoED Approach and Analytic Problem-Solving Tools; Addressing Special Education Challenges, TregoED; “Ready for anything: Making complex decisions with confidence and clarity” by Victor Shandor, District Administration (June 2020); “Grafton fire update: York County Schools have finalized sked for the rest of the year” by Lucretia Cunningham, WYDaily (February 2020); “Five Things to Know About the Record-Setting 2020 Dallas ISD Bond Package” by Corbett Smith, Dallas Morning News (October 2020); A Leadership Guide to Navigating the Unknown in Education: New Narratives Amid COVID-19 by Sally J. Zepeda and Philip D. Lanoue (2021); Citizens Bond Steering Committee PowerPoint Presentation, Dallas Independent School District (March 2020); Citizens Bond Steering Committee Meeting Minutes, Dallas Independent School District (September 2019); North Shore School District 112 Superintendent Michael Lubelfeld’s Public Response to Email Petition to Return to In-Person Learning (October 2020); Reopening of Schools PowerPoint Presentation to North Shore School District 112 Board of Education (June 2020); Dallas Independent School District List of Committees and Names of Committee Members for 100-Member Bond Task Force; Baldwin Schools in 2035: Learning for an Uncertain Future, Baldwin Union Free School District in New York; Center on Reinventing Public Education, “Report on Summer Learning Plans from 100 Large Districts”