National Call to Action for Summer Learning: How Did School Districts Respond?

Seeking to counter the pandemic’s harmful impact on students, the vast majority of school districts nationwide mobilized in 2021 to deliver summer learning programming. A full 94 percent of districts responded, reaching nearly one-fifth (18 percent) of their student populations, on average.

A new slide presentation from Westat details early findings from an ongoing multi-method study of how educators turned to summer learning programs to address the instructional losses brought on by school closings and other upheavals during the COVID-19 crisis.

This report draws on a survey of districts that yielded nationally representative results and revealed patterns and common characteristics of summer 2021 programming efforts. Among the findings about districts that offered summer 2021 learning opportunities:

  • School districts in cities and rural areas served the greatest proportion of their students (22 percent and 18 percent, respectively) with school districts in suburbs serving the smallest proportion (13 percent). 
  • “Learning recovery”—supporting students in pursuing learning disrupted by the pandemic—was the most common summer programming approach, used by 75 percent of the districts. 
  • Some 67 percent of the districts prioritized serving students with special needs. 
  • More than half of the districts (57 percent) supplemented academic programming with social-emotional learning. 
  • Some 41 percent of districts engaged partners to plan for and/or deliver programming.

Future reports from Westat’s research are expected to examine summer learning from the perspective of state education agencies and build on district survey findings with analysis of districts plans and insights from interviews with district officials. Collectively, these findings are meant to contribute to a better understanding of how a national effort for summer learning and enrichment could extend beyond immediate pandemic needs.

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