Summer Reset: Boosting Attendance With Skill-Building Fun

This guest post by Elizabeth Olsson, Policy Coordinator, TASC, originally appeared in the Smarter Summers blog.

I used to teach 7th grade English Language Arts in Brooklyn. I remember the look of dread on my students’ faces when their worst fears were realized: failing scores on their math or ELA state tests meant they would have to attend summer school.

Who could blame them? Sitting at a desk for four hours a day, doing the same things in August they did throughout the school year is hardly any kid’s idea of a great way to spend a summer.

The research tells us it’s also not the best way to get kids back on track through summer learning. The same principles apply during summer as during the school year. When kids are excited and motivated by what they’re learning, they increase their achievement, and have a more positive attitude about themselves as learners and about school.

That’s what I saw when I visited a Smarter Summers program in the Bronx this week. The principal and teachers from Frederick Douglass Academy V Middle School are working with BELL community educators to offer summer learning both to failing students who have been mandated by the New York City school system to attend, and to many others who come voluntarily.

I saw students sculpting pottery in the style of Ancient Greece, the subject of some nonfiction they had read earlier in the day while concentrating on literacy, writing, and math. Others were having a blast in an improvisation class, a creative forum for learning to control, and express their emotions. They were looking forward to visiting the space shuttle soon at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

Program numbers tell a success story—just 67% of mandated students attend traditional summer school, while attendance for this more balanced program is close to 90%.

Students from Frederick Douglass Academy V Middle School learning improvisation

Students from Frederick Douglass Academy V Middle School learning improvisation

Smarter Summers is made possible through a generous gift from Walmart.