Allegheny County students look to summer school after a difficult year. But can they catch up?

by TyLisa C. Johnson, PublicSource

Six days before 2,500 Pittsburgh Public Schools students were scheduled to arrive at the Summer B.O.O.S.T. learning camp, the program was postponed by a week. The district said it was scrambling to plug staffing shortages and slash enrollment.

When the camp convenes today, it will be with additional hires the district made in the past week to serve 1,500 students with high academic need. Around 1,000 students were told they can’t participate.

The no-cost Pittsburgh Public Schools [PPS] program is part of the district’s larger efforts to remediate collective learning loss in the summer months, particularly pressing after a year of remote instruction in the pandemic.

Students across Allegheny County are venturing to a blend of summer learning programs, wellness programs, summer camps and credit recovery programs, still carrying much of the stress from the 2020-21 school year.

The number of students to attend summer school this year nationwide is anticipated to surpass the 3.3 million who attended mandatory or optional summer school in 2019, before the pandemic.

But how much learning recovery is realistic to expect in these summer months?

Well-designed summer programs are most effective when students can return summer after summer, according to the Learning Policy Institute.

Districts like PPS who remained remote a majority of the year will need the summer months to make gains in recovering learning loss or at least to keep it from worsening. Instructional time and curriculum coverage were significantly lower for schools that remained fully remote for the majority of the year, according to research by RAND Corporation.

PublicSource reviewed summer program offerings from more than 10 districts across the county. All districts offered some type of summer learning program, and multiple offered various programs for credit recovery, wellness, enrichment and/or learning. Several were created in response to the pandemic.

Some districts that shared their summer plans with PublicSource:

(Photo via Adobe Stock)

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Allegheny County students look to summer school after a difficult year. But can they catch up?

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