Should students go to summer school to make up for learning loss?

Montgomery County government is leaving it up to individual districts to decide on summer school, but some see challenges. 

Bella Tumolo’s mom says her second grader’s return to 5-day a week, in-person classes months ago in Montgomery County’s North Penn schools was smooth. 

"Kids can return and it can work. There are still some kids virtual, some hybrid. All the kids are doing fantastic," Christine Tumolo said.

So when the final bell rings on this school year, Bella will spend the summer just being a kid.

But will that break come at a steep cost for students who’ve suffered what some call "learning loss?' It's a term teachers’ unions bristle at but speaks to a fall-off of academic progress for some.

"If they made any progress at all from the previous year it will be a surprise, yeah," Donna Cooper with Public Citizens for Children and Youth said.

Cooper believes with $130 billion funneled to K-12 schools from the feds, districts should mount 6-weeks of robust, 1/2-day summer school.

"You’re not going to make up a whole year loss of learning in one summer, but this starts this summer, goes after school, and next summer as well," Cooper said.

Montgomery County government is leaving it up to individual districts to decide on summer school, but Cooper sees challenges including reluctant parents and teachers.

"Can we find teachers willing to teach this summer, or students becoming teachers starting early this summer? Maybe bringing back retirees. We definitely have to staff up," Cooper said.

Arthur Steinberg, president of the 36,000 member American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania, opposes non-professionals in the classroom and says teachers are tired.

"Now that they’re vaccinated and able to get out and do things with their families it’s an interesting question to answer to see how much they’re going to be able to do,"  Steinberg said.

Steinberg argues any "lack of student achievement" comes from "chronic under-funding of public education."

Christine Tumolo wants a balance.

"To each their own if you choose to send you child, yes, but please do something fun with them," Tumolo said. 


COVID education gap: Students struggle to make up lost learning due to pandemic



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