Jun 30, 2022 - News

Philadelphia continues expanded summer school for 2022

Illustration of a pattern for backpacks.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Thousands of Philadelphia students started summer school this week in the district's second year of expanded programming.

The big picture: Philadelphia joins many districts across the country in reimagining summer learning β€” and experts say enrichment programs and other offerings may become a "permanent part of the landscape," Axios' Erin Doherty reports.

  • Summer school programs increased across the country last year, largely in an attempt to help students fill learning gaps following pandemic disruptions.
  • Many schools are offering those summer learning options again this year, school tracking site Burbio found, but some have also added accelerated and enrichment programs and a mix of online and in-person classes.

Why it matters: District assessments showed that the first year of Philadelphia's expanded summer program helped students sustain learning from the school year, and prepared them for the next grade level, a district spokesperson told Axios.

Catch up fast: The Philadelphia School District increased its summer school offerings for the first time last year to include not just the opportunity to make up credits but also supplement school-year learning for anyone interested. Plus it provided extracurriculars.

  • The district is now using roughly $15 million in federal pandemic funds, about the same as last year, to continue expanded programming this summer.
  • "Even before the pandemic we knew that students needed more learning time to master the curriculum and the pandemic just exacerbated that," Tony B. Watlington, the district's new superintendent, told WHYY.

Zoom in: The city has partnered with community organizations, like Concilio and the Boys & Girls Clubs, to offer activities that encourage "playful learning" in addition to academic instruction, said Waleska Maldonado, chief of prevention services for the city's Office of Children and Families, which coordinates the enrichment programming.

  • "So the kids feel as though yeah, I might be learning something in the morning, but then the afternoon is more of a summer camp," Maldonado told Axios.
  • Students in 10th–12th grades can take part in a summer entrepreneurship program, and rising high school seniors can take college prep courses at the University of Pennsylvania.

What they're saying: "One of the reasons in the past that summer school wasn't real popular is kids needed a break," Julie Roche, co-founder of Burbio, told Axios.

  • "So now in order to keep them in school, they're realizing they have to offer them some interesting things," Roche said.

The bottom line: Maldonado said city leaders are aware that engaging kids in the summer helps keep them out of trouble.

  • The district said it plans to continue "some level of summer learning support for grades 1–7" in the future.
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