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Summer Reset
posted by: Tamia | July 24, 2020, 04:07 PM   

Schools and families need a reset over the summer.

Every student, teacher, parent, and administrator has experienced a tumultuous spring semester, and we all need to take time for self-care. Many of the systems districts and teachers are using were designed hastily, and they should take advantage of the summer break to gather input from families and ensure that students are being served appropriately. It is incumbent on schools to offer summer learning opportunities in a way that respects what families are experiencing.


  • Leave some breathing room for students and their families.
    • Few students have the opportunity to spend hours a day working on school work at home. Some are watching younger siblings, working, or simply lack the technology to access online classes. They and their families need the option to prepare for learning in the fall without the added stress of making up content over the summer.
  • Engage with families to determine the most beneficial method of summer learning.
    • Teachers and school leaders need to be aware not just of the challenges students and their families face, but also of the solutions they want to see. Each family has unique needs. For example: can their student get online? Is a wifi hotspot outside of the school a practical solution for a family without reliable transportation? The answers to these questions should come from those impacted by the decisions, and they should inform educators as they prepare to meet community needs.
  • Plan any major remediation for the fall where more support can be provided.
    • Schools are playing an increasingly important role in their communities. Over the summer, schools will have to make plans for serving families’ needs in addition to revising their approaches to special education and English Language Learner services.


Regardless of whether or not a student is participating in summer learning, they need a break. Their worlds were upended in March, and many children and their families were not granted an opportunity to catch their breath before they had to figure out distance learning on their own. The expectation for a typical year of growth is ambitious, and educators need to ensure that students are not carrying the burden of missed learning.

1. Social-Emotional Learning needs to be a priority in every classroom.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) encompasses what students learn in the school building outside of content, including working with others, setting goals, and making responsible decisions. It will be challenging to engage students in SEL when they return to school, and schools have to be intentional about how they establish their learning environments to account for the anxiety students and families are experiencing about returning to school. Planning has to start now in order to create a consistent vision across content areas that speaks to students’ social and emotional needs.


  • Make cohesive plans with grade-level teachers.
    • Teachers need to have conversations about how they will provide space for students to explore their own social-emotional learning when school resumes in the fall. This will help to ensure that learning environments are consistent in an inconsistent time and make students feel more comfortable having uncomfortable conversations with their teachers.
  • Design activities conducive to collaboration in a digital space.
    • There are a plethora of online resources that promote collaboration that can be relied upon during distance learning. Discussion boards on Google Classroom, competitive games like Quizizz, and unique digital presentation tools like Flipgrid push students to interact with one another in interesting and engaging ways.
  • Don’t focus exclusively on content.
    • Content gaps for students will be wider than ever when students return to the classroom, but it is important to understand the role that schools play in students’ lives beyond content knowledge. Students’ developmental needs must be addressed before learning can resume. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, students’ physiological and safety needs have to come before students can truly engage in learning. These two goals are inextricable, and both will require planning and intentionality to address effectively.

There are a variety of ways to work through the content, but it is much more difficult to address the very real issues students face outside the classroom in an online environment. Students need a space to connect with peers and work collaboratively, and schools need to agree on how those spaces should look.

2. Assessments need a redesign to meet the needs of this moment.

Reconsidering how content is delivered is an opportunity to dramatically improve the way students learn. Teachers should use the summer to familiarize themselves with best practices around digital learning and assessment and explore options for providing rigorous learning activities that utilize innovative methods of demonstrating mastery.

  • Collaborate with colleagues to design assessments that lessen students’ workloads in exchange for intentional creativity.
    • Standard unit tests are time-consuming, and it can be challenging for students to find an hour of uninterrupted time to take a test for each class they take. Alternative summative assessments like projects, portfolios, and written summaries open the door to cross-curricular skill development.
  • Consider how traditional standards of content mastery can be adapted to what students need to know most urgently.
    • Assessments should be guided by the content that provides enduring impact for students, leveraging prior knowledge to prepare students for more challenging concepts further in the educational careers. Teachers should identify what content standards most signify high levels of learning and tailor assessments to measure the material that reflects what students more urgently need to know.
  • Include students in their learning activities using reflection in tandem with assessment.
    • Students should be included in their assessments. Student reflection demonstrates that learning is not just about a grade at the end of a unit, but about how they understand the learning process itself. Regular reflection extends the language students use to talk about their understanding of complex topics and opens the door to more targeted and student-led remediation.

Traditional measures of understanding do not translate well into online and blended learning environments. Teachers need to take a student’s course load into account as they design their curriculum for the fall, and that work needs to start before students return.

Eli Rolfes works as a secondary math teacher in Covington, Kentucky and is currently serving as a Policy and Advocacy Fellow with AAE. Prior to teaching, he worked in the Office of Student Success at The University of Texas at Austin. Eli is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio but has relocated to Arlington, Virginia.


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