Janet Wilson, the former Chief of Teaching, Learning, and Schools for Montgomery County, MD, and current SVP of District Solutions at Littera Education outlines three key problems facing schools as they plan for the summer and provides a detailed solution to each in her Summer Success Strategies series. This is the first of three installments!
#1 Use Summer to Target Key Transition Grades
The Challenge: Students are struggling academically and schools need help. The pandemic exacerbated existing learning gaps, and students can’t be retained as a large-scale effort to get back on track.
Students need support establishing a strong foundation for the next school year, especially in key transition years such as:
- From primary to intermediate (second to third grade)
- Intermediate to middle (fifth to sixth grade), and
- Middle to high (eighth to ninth grade)
A rising third-grader may be behind in reading and literacy, as they likely have not experienced a single “normal” school year in their elementary careers. A sixth-grade student is likely to lack focus or the prerequisite skills from fourth and fifth grade that are critical for success in sixth.
The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research characterizes ninth grade as the “Make It or Break It Year” requiring that everything possible be accomplished to ensure students leave ninth grade having attended school regularly and having successfully completed the required ninth-grade credits. Those who do are more likely to graduate than those who do not.
With COVID-19 responses and impacts affecting every year of their middle school experience, this year’s ninth-grade students have not had a normal school year since fourth grade resulting in them being particularly vulnerable to not meeting course standards.
“This year’s ninth-grade students have not had a normal school year since fourth grade resulting in them being particularly vulnerable to not meeting course standards.”
The Opportunity: We have to create innovative routes to build foundational skills, especially in these challenging transition grades. Using high-dosage tutoring as part of the summer school design is a strategy to ensure students’ readiness for the next grade level, allowing them to make key transitions with confidence.
Rising Third Graders: For example, third graders are moving from learning to read in K-2 (foundational skills) to reading to learn (navigating more complex texts and academic vocabulary). The foundational skills must be firmly in place for third graders to meet more rigorous reading standards.
Rising Sixth Graders: The same is true for sixth graders who must shore up reading prerequisites from fourth and fifth grade to ensure readiness for sixth. The expectations for strong comprehension skills across multiple content areas demand that students be ready for this transition if they are to have a successful first year of middle school.
Rising Ninth Graders: Ninth graders set to take a variety of coursework can be provided tutoring support to ensure that essential focus skills intended for learning in middle school are intact. Even beyond summer school, districts can extend high-dosage tutoring into the school year to ensure ninth-grade students have routine support available along a particular course.
Unlike the on-demand homework help model, high-dosage tutoring facilitates alignment with instruction in the classroom and uses an interactive approach with a consistent tutor who uses whiteboard tools in a live video and audio setting as students are supported through a course.
Applying high-leverage designs that include remote high-dosage tutoring makes sense as a strong contender for “something different.” Why not help students look ahead with confidence by using high-impact tutoring as part of the transformative summer school journey?