Two cute little girls sitting on a wooden platform by the river or lake dipping their feet in the water on warm summer day
Photo by MNStudio on Adobe Stock

The Bottom Line Summer Is Essential

Historically, summer has been seen as essential to give students a needed break from school for extended family time and outdoor fun. However, we need to think about this summer differently.

As desirable as a three-month summer break can be for students, teachers, and school staff, this year is different. The pandemic has negatively impacted student learning nationwide, and precious lost time must be recovered. There is no magic solution to combat the setback that spanned more than a full calendar year. But focused, high-quality learning time is required and must occur sooner rather than later if we are going to offset the lost learning. Our students can’t afford for this coming summer to be squandered away, void of serious academic learning.

This summer provides the opportunity to make up 50-60 days of lost learning.

Keri D. Ingraham

Several states are addressing the challenge. In North Carolina, Governor Ray Cooper signed House Bill 82, which requires school districts to provide at least 150 hours of instruction and enrichment to students this summer. The bill allocates funding to districts to address potential roadblocks for families related to student transportation and lunch. While the mandate doesn’t go as far as to require students to attend summer sessions, districts must provide the service. At-risk students will be prioritized, but other students can attend if space remains available.

In New Mexico, the needed union support was garnered by offering longer school days instead of continuing through the summer months. Connecticut bypassed a battle with teacher unions altogether and created a summer recovery plan for students, which will utilize community-based nonprofit groups instead of district teachers.

Tennessee is not only ensuring students have avenues for learning this summer but is putting accountability measures in place. A new retention law would ensure that this year’s first graders meet benchmarks when they reach the time to progress from third to fourth grade. Forward-thinking Florida is considering Senate Bill 200, which would give parents the option of requesting their kindergarten through eighth grade students repeat the current grade.

With traditional summer break mere weeks away, timely action plans are of utmost importance. As we saw during the last year, the way in which private schools (and a few outlier public schools) tended to respond to the pandemic, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Those that remained open for full-time, in-person learning found a way to do so safely out of a driving passion for what’s best for students and their families. Conversely, the majority of public schools catered to the interests and excuses of teacher unions, keeping campuses closed, and only as of late have begun to provide in-person instruction in a limited capacity. 

Research reveals that the usual summer break results in student learning loss. This year’s backslide could be catastrophic if added to the staggering learning loss that has already occurred due to school closures. This summer provides the opportunity to reverse that trend — making up 50-60 days of the standard 180-day school year.

Legislators and state education leaders need to get creative in customizing plans to serve their students better, making prudent use of the extensive provisional federal funding that’s available. We need to seize the opportunity in the coming summer months to make up for lost learning. It’s time to get going. Summer will be here before we know it, and for the sake of our students, we can’t have a repeat of last summer.

Keri D. Ingraham

Senior Fellow and Director, American Center for Transforming Education
Dr. Keri D. Ingraham is a Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute and Director of the Institute’s American Center for Transforming Education. She is also a Senior Fellow at Independent Women’s Forum. Dr. Ingraham has been a guest on Fox News multiple times. Her articles have been published by The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, The Federalist, Real Clear Education, The Washington Times, National Review, The American Spectator, Washington Examiner, The Epoch Times, The Seattle Times, Puget Sound Business Journal, The Daily Signal, and a host of other media outlets. Fox News has featured her work. Prior to joining Discovery Institute, she spent nearly two decades leading within the field of education as a national consultant, requested conference speaker, head of school, virtual and hybrid academy director, administrator, classroom teacher, and athletic coach. She authored multiple chapters for the book, Sketching a New Conservative Education Agenda, published in 2022. In 2019, she was invited as a contributing author for the book, MindShift: Catalyzing Change in Christian Education and co-authored “From Gutenberg to 5G.” Dr. Ingraham was awarded the George W. Selig Doctoral Fellowship in 2013. The following year she received the “World Changer in the Field of Education” award from Regent University.
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