High expectations for summer programs as learning gaps predicted to grow

This post was originally posted and written by Education Dive

With experts predicting and school leaders expecting significant student learning loss because of school closures, advocates, researchers and others stepped up efforts this week to emphasize the role that out-of-school-time programs play in minimizing the damage. 

On Thursday, for example, the Afterschool Alliance, the Boys and Girls Clubs and other organizations will hold an afternoon virtual town hall event to draw attention to how after-school and summer programs can be part of economic recovery and provide ongoing learning experiences for students. 

“After-school programs and after-school staff are the best-situated people to be addressing the concerns we have about … kids and this isolation that they are facing,” Jodi Grant, the executive director of the Afterschool Alliance said Tuesday during a virtual Congressional briefing. She added that out-of-school program providers are part of restarting the economy. “Parents can’t return to work if their kids are home or home every other day.”

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, passed in March, included more than $13 billion for K-12 schools, which districts can use to support summer programming. Governors also have discretion in using almost $3 billion in additional relief funds for either K-12 or higher education. 

Meanwhile, out-of-school-time programs have “risen to the moment,” Grant said, and have been working well beyond the normal 3-6 p.m. time slot to offer virtual learning, as well as handle meal and learning packet distribution. But she added 75% of programs surveyed have reported they are “at risk of closing permanently or laying off staff.” 

In New York City, for example, advocates with the Campaign for Children, a nonprofit, estimate 175,000 children and youth would be affected by $175 million in proposed cuts to some city summer programs. 

“These devastating cuts to youth summer programs will disproportionately impact the communities that have suffered the most during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to exacerbate existing inequities,” Sharon Greenberger, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York, said in a press release.

During a Congressional briefing Tuesday, Jodi Grant of the Afterschool Alliance noted many out-of-school-time providers are struggling financially.Afterschool Alliance 

‘A time of elevated risk’

The expectations for what summer programs can accomplish are also extremely high this year. Tanji Reed Marshall, the director of P-12 practice at The Education Trust, a nonprofit, said during a National Summer Learning Association press briefing Wednesday that summer will be “the opportunity” to not only make up for missed learning during school closures, but to also focus on new learning in preparation for fall and provide additional enrichment for students. 

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