About Summer Learning
Tuscaloosa City Schools' superintendent Dr. Mike Daria saw an opportunity on the calendar: learning doesn't have to stop for the summer for students. It's an idea born of the system's commitment to moving the needle of excellence for all students as part of the Strategic Plan.
"The summer slide is real," said Daria. "We do have students who are not engaged in learning activities during the summer and we wanted to do our part to make sure they had learning experiences and they had the opportunity to participate in engaging experiences."
What started out as a project to merely inventory summer learning opportunities, soon become something more. During the 2016-2017 school year, the school system introduced a three-part program to address the issue by focusing on the traditional summer school program, a new summer enrichment program, and relationship-building among community collaborators.
"We know we’ve got nonprofits, churches, and other groups that offer summer programming and our goal is to make sure our students get connected to the summer program that already exists," he said.
As part of the work, TCS conducted a survey to find out families' thoughts on selecting a summer program for their children. The results indicate nearly three-quarters of families view educational opportunities as "very important" when it comes to selecting a summer program. That was followed by cost, childcare, location and recreational opportunities. Findings from the survey conducted February 1 - March 21, 2017 conclude:
- 74.4% of respondents view educational opportunity as "very important"
- 56.8% of respondents view cost as "very important"
- 51.3% of respondents view childcare as "very important"
- 50% of respondents view location as "very important"
- 41.8% of respondents view recreational opportunity as "very important"
Families also offered ideas as to what they'd like to see in summer programs in Tuscaloosa for students through open-ended responses. The ten most popular themes provided have been illustrated in the word cloud below.
Drawing from the feedback from families, the system developed a summer enrichment program featuring its own teaching staff.
"This is the idea of camps for students to attend," said Daria. "These are exciting, intriguing, high-interest levels for students, with an academic focus certainly, but in a very engaging way."
City schools' students had the chance to choose among more than 50 newly-created courses designed to attract a wide array of interests. The superintendent said he believes the work will have an impact on learning.
"It will be measurable in the future," he said. "We have an expansion to do and we have programming to continue, but just from the idea of students having learning experiences that are fun, engaging and impactful for the summer, that’s enough of an evaluation at this point."