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4 Ways Districts Can Achieve Targeted Summer Learning Outcomes

By Michael Haggen, Scholastic SVP, General Manager, Literacy Pro & Collections — April 01, 2024 4 min read
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It’s no secret that summer reading is critical to a child’s academic success and that educators play a pivotal role in driving learning outcomes for their students. According to research from the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™, 70% of children say their teachers and school librarians encourage them to read for fun, so how do we continue that encouragement when schools are on break? The good news is that we know from the same research 61% of kids say they enjoy summer reading, and when kids enjoy something, they are more likely to do it—and by reading more and more, students will see stronger academic gains, especially during these critical summer months.

I recently spoke with three district leaders from across the country to learn their best practices for preparing teachers and students for memorable and impactful summer learning experiences.

Kristin Guarini, District Coordinator of the Summer Program of Academic Re-engagement and Knowledge for Students (S.P.A.R.K.S.) at Jersey City Public Schools in New Jersey, Lindsay Sudol, Assistant Director of Teaching and Learning at East Maine District 63, in Des Plaines, Illinois, and Kenya Harrington, Executive Director of Academic Achievement at Bedford City School District in Ohio, shared strategies they use to improve not only existing summer programming, but also ways to expand and enhance learning experiences so that students are engaged with relevant content. Those include:

1. Use student and parent input to drive design and decision-making

  • Many leaders struggle to amplify summer learning offerings. However, leaders can ensure that students, teachers, and families are a priority and that they are truly partners in the decision-making processes. They can do this by sparking interest and building community excitement.
  • One technique that continually yields positive results is the use of student and parent surveys. Kristin’s team makes informed choices with real-time data, which encourages student voice and student choice:

    • By using surveys as a tool, Jersey City Public Schools has visibility into the classes that most interest students, the learning formats they want to see, and their interests and disinterests in years past.
    • After the data is collected, the district then creates informative videos and fliers, available in multiple languages, so that all students and families are ready and prepared for the break.
Quote from Kristen Guarini, District Coordinator Summer Program, Jersey City Public Schools, NJ

2. Utilize all communication channels

  • East Maine District 63 in Des Plaines prioritizes accessibility to ensure that the community is informed and involved with summer learning programming.

    • The summer learning team disseminates information broadly to empower parents and caregivers through a variety of outlets, whether it be through school channels, social media, fliers, mail, or email.
    • They also ensure that all information is translated and available in multiple languages, expressing that widespread information is key in making sure that summer learning attendance is strong.
  • By providing information abundantly, districts can foster transparency and collaborate with parents and caregivers to take ownership of their child’s education, becoming partners with homeroom teachers and leaders.

3. Focus on enrichment and readiness during the summer months

  • By honing in on specific subject areas that need attention, either through interactive STEM games or literacy programs, students can continue working on proficiency levels. These programs can include hands-on activities, field trips, or read-alouds.
  • Through interactive tools and content blending, districts can create engaging learning environments that kids want to experience during the summer, and that will help prepare them for the upcoming school year.
  • New Jersey students in Kristin Guarini’s summer program enjoy Scholastic Scholar Zone for initiatives, ranging from kindergarten readiness to engaging literature opportunities for older students, as well as Scholastic Magazines+ as a read-aloud tool that can be used with family members and also utilize the educational activities and games found within each issue.
  • In Illinois, Lindsay uses Scholastic LitCamp and My Books Summer take-home book packs to build home libraries, as the majority of families don’t have the money to purchase new books regularly. This opportunity is not only exciting for the students—it’s also critical to ensure that they have access to new and engaging titles.
Quote from Lindsay S. Assistant Director of Teaching & Learning, East Maine District 63, IL

4. Prioritize the well-being of your students

  • All three district leaders agree that fostering well-rounded learners who see themselves reflected in stories and are encouraged by their learning is a huge end goal of summer learning.
  • Another critical part of summer learning is safeguarding student joy and perseverance. In Ohio’s Bedford City schools, Kenya conveys that their district relies on the guidance of social-emotional learning instructors, behavior therapists, and counselors to help inform the curriculum. These staff members are equally important as the teachers in the classrooms, as they are ensuring the health and well-being of children that will impact them for years to come.

    • The newly published Scholastic Summer Solutions white paper affirms that children’s well-being and ability to manage their emotions and relationships influence reading achievement.
  • While a district may want to focus exclusively on building a specific skill or developing content areas, leaders must continue to promote holistic learning opportunities so that students can experience positive academic growth and achievement.
Quote from Kenya Harrington, Executive Direct of Academic Achievement, Bedford City School District, OH

As educators and literacy advocates, we must continue to work together and share best practices, such as these, that will support every child in their summer reading journey and beyond. Here at Scholastic, we are proud to be a long-time partner in ensuring that educators have the tools in hand to meet students’ needs during this critical time.

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