Elevate: Summer Learning

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and Superintendent Dr. Mike Daria discuss the city's investment in TCS Summer Learning Academies and the results seen in Tuscaloosa.
  • Overview

    The City of Tuscaloosa and Tuscaloosa City Schools are partnering to "normalize" summer learning.  Although traditional state and federal educational structures do not provide significant funding to schools in the summer, the reality of summer learning loss is too obvious and harmful to allow.  As a member of the New Vision for Summer School, Tuscaloosa City Schools is leading the work to build a network of high-quality school- and community-based summer learning programs. Using the national summer learning model as guidance, these programs all share the following characteristics:
    • Voluntary
    • Affordable
    • Full-day programming combining enriched academics and academically enhanced enrichment activities
    • Small class sizes (15:1 student to adult ratio)

  • Research

    The research on the impact of summer learning loss is clear and is well documented. This video explains the effects of summer learning loss over time.

    Additionally, the Tuscaloosa City Schools reviewed the impacts of its focus on summer learning. Read our white paper.

  • Track Record

    The Tuscaloosa City Schools began this work in earnest in 2017. The year prior saw TCS serving 360 students in three system programs. Two years into the effort saw broad implementation in 2018.  Three years into the effort, the system more than tripled those efforts by serving 1,403 students in nine programs during summer 2019--full implementation of summer learning academies, pilot community partnerships. This work was supported by five community partners. The number of students served represents 27 percent of total students in kindergarten through fourth grade. 

    Initial planning for Summer 2020 aimed to serve 1,630 students in 14 programs. Those projected numbers would have meant 31 percent of total students in kindergarten through fourth grade would have participated in a TCS Summer Learning program and an expanded cadre of community partnerships. The COVID health crisis, however, significantly altered those plans. Unable to plan in-person programming of any kind, TCS shifted strategy and instead offered virtual learning opportunities including the launch of a website (Tuscaloosa Reads), a district-wide book give-away and book delivery program, and other opportunities.

    Summer 2021 is year five of the district's commitment to robust summer learning opportunities. Thanks to the passage of the Alabama Literacy Act, schools and districts are now required to serve academically vulnerable students - a commitment TCS has made good on for several years. Current plans for this summer include nine elementary face-to-face programs, three middle school programs, and programming on all three high school campuses. In all, the district's own programs will serve more than 3,000 students K-12, including well more than 50% of the students in grades K-3. The launch of a summer site for parents (www.mysummerlearning.com) provides a place for school and community programs alike to share information about all the opportunities available to students across the community.

    Students who attend outperform their peers and see average gains of up to 1.5 months growth in math and reading, while peers lost between two and nine months of learning during the same time period.

    Reading Academic Gains
    K-2 outperformed non-attending peers
    3-5: 0 loss (peers lost four months)
    6-8: one month (peers lost nine months)

    Math Academic Gains
    3-5: one month (peers lost two months)
    6-8: one and a half months (peers lost two months)

  • Requirements

    ELEVATE funds are used to enhance elementary programs operated by the Tuscaloosa City Schools. In Summer 2021, 9 such face-to-face programs will run, serving more than 2,000 students representing all 12 schools. A fully virtual program will also serve students K-8, along with face-to-face programs for students in grades 6-12. All students have access to high-quality summer programs through these opportunities or via community-based partner programs. To learn more and to explore the options available, please visit www.mysummerlearning.com.


  • "As the TCS focuses on "each and every student" the ELEVATE funds provide a way for this community to accelerate its work in equity by tackling the achievement gap that has for too long existed in our system. ELEVATE also allows the TCS to provide access to high quality and rigorous learning experiences at a high rate and without barriers for our students."

    Mike Daria, Ed.D