This fall, teachers, staff and students will make the return to in-person learning, but not before school officials ease the transition with a summer full of academic and extracurricular activities taking place at various schools across the District.
The D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) summer acceleration academies, as they have been dubbed, will launch in July. These programs will focus on a portion of the student population in need of extra support in literacy and math.
Offerings also include self-expression, holistic growth, career preparedness and identity formation.
“We’re focusing on acceleration [with] a math and literacy curriculum for three weeks. After lunch, students would have a socio-emotional hour [where] they are engaged in extracurricular activities,” said William Massey, principal of H.D. Woodson High School in Northeast.
In total, 19,000 students citywide are expected to have similar experiences.
“Students in the 11th and 12th grades would be doing something similar with SAT support for the evidence-based reading component,” Massey continued.
“We’re aiding and supporting students through credit recovery [and making sure] students have one mentor who checks in with them and speaks with them throughout summer school to motivate them and let them know the finish line is within reach.”
SUBJECT MASTERY LOST DURING PANDEMIC
Research conducted by EmpowerK12 toward the end of last year showed that, during the pandemic, District students in elementary and middle school lost four months of learning in math and one month for English.
Students designated as at-risk faced even greater hurdles with four and five months of learning loss in those respective subjects. This occurred at a time when the achievement gap significantly grew in the District at a pace similar to what other jurisdictions across the country were experiencing.
The technological divide, along with other glaring racial and socioeconomic inequities, had been credited with the citywide learning loss that has even frustrated teachers on the frontline of virtual learning.
An all-teachers survey conducted by the D.C. State Board of Education this spring found that teachers in Wards 7 and 8 found more difficulty engaging their students. Two out of three respondents said they couldn’t cover as much content as they would have liked, while less than 40 percent of teachers believed they had the tools to address student wellness.
Such conditions compelled calls for a return to in-person learning, albeit concerns about quelling the spread of COVID and schools’ ability to follow safety protocols.
In the months before the phased reopening that commenced in February, school leaders met with teachers, parents, students, and community members to create the conditions beneficial to their particular institution.
In advance of the summer acceleration academies, each DCPS school had a Recovery Community Corp that similarly shaped programs taking place throughout the months of July and August.
ACADEMIC FAIR TO CAP SUMMER SCHOOL
During a recent school leaders roundtable, Shelly Gray recounted those experiences as she delved into what students, parents, and community members should expect during the summer and fall. Gray, principal of LaSalle-Backus Education Campus in Northeast, described her goal as bringing the joy of learning back to the physical classroom environment.
Part of doing so, Gray said, involved listening closely to those mostly affected by her decisions. Because of community input, LaSalle-Backus will provide students between the second and fifth grades with project-based literacy, math, science, health and physical education during a journey that will culminate in a summer academic fair.
“As a school leader, it’s been humbling to learn from children. The staff and adults have leaned in to demonstrate patience, and we have had the unique opportunity to go from a virtual setting to welcoming students and families to our building,” Gray said.
“We realize this has been a chance to listen to our students and family [and] value the diversity of voices, be patient and steadfast, and maintain a mindset of forward thinking.”