Summer learning report makes case for ongoing state support
Friday, January 21, 2022
Oregon’s historic summer learning investment in 2021 provides a template for the future, webinar speakers said Friday.
“It is extremely timely that we look back on the successes of last summer and work on making sure that last summer was not an anomaly,” said Sen. Michael Dembrow, chair of the Senate Interim Education Committee, during the webinar.
The “Legislative Summer Learning Roundtable” webinar introduced OregonASK’s summer learning programs report, "Whatever It Takes: Summer 2021," but much of the webinar looked to the future of summer programs locally and nationally.
Students’ social, emotional and academic development clearly suffered during the distance learning of the 2020-21 school year. As pandemic restrictions receded last year, school leaders seized on summer programs to build relationships with students, help them catch up and generally enrich lives that had been narrowed by COVID-19 isolation.
Schools around the country invested more in afterschool and summer programs using federal COVID-19 emergency funding. Dembrow was part of Oregon’s creation of an additional $250 million state package for summer programs and child care. Nearly $200 million of it was directed to public schools for K-8 enrichment activities, credit recovery and K-8 wraparound services.
Last summer should be a first step in an ongoing education mission, Dembrow said.
Brodrick Clarke, the National Summer Learning Association’s vice president of programs and systems quality, led the webinar. He said Oregon was “ahead of the curve” in providing summer opportunities and other states could learn from Oregon.
Research shows all students lose math and reading skills over the long summer break, but the loss is significantly higher among students from low-income families. Those students have less access to enriching activities, and their families depend more on school-provided meals, medical care and supervision. Summer programs help bridge the opportunity gap.
The report said last year’s infusion of money “transformed the landscape of summer learning,” making publicly funded programs far more widely available.
OregonASK identified 1,770 summer programs in Oregon in 2021, roughly distributed according to population. The report found a wide variety of entities, from nonprofits and churches to public schools and tribal organizations, partnering to provide programs. The report’s recommendations called for a comprehensive summer learning system with more accountability and reporting to assure continued high-quality programs available to all.
“The need does not evaporate after one year, and the inequities of summer learning loss will not disappear,” OregonASK Research Manager Katie Lakey said in the webinar.
The recommendations also called for an earlier funding commitment from the state. Ideally, summer program planning should start early in the school year. Last year’s surprise state announcement in March left school districts and other entities scrambling to find staff and space and to set up programs students would want to attend.
Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill said during the webinar that OregonASK’s report demonstrated the necessity of summer programing. He said ODE would be working during the 2022 short legislative session to repeat the 2021 funding and calling for a more permanent program in the full 2023 session.
He said the goal would be to set up “sustainable, predictable, reliable and flexible” summer learning funding.