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May 11, 2011
Quality of Summer School Teachers Targeted
By Stephen Sawchuk
As hundreds of thousands of students soon head off to summer school, several crucial and long-unanswered questions about teacher quality could get a second look: Which teachers get recruited for summer school, and how well does their instruction align to the knowledge and skills children need to master?
A hefty body of evidence documents the phenomenon of “summer learning loss,” but consensus on the attributes of effective summer intervention, especially when it comes to access to high-quality teaching for students most at risk of falling behind, is only starting to emerge.
Now, though, a handful of districts are beginning to wrestle with the topic, thanks in part to an emphasis on both teacher quality and expanded learning in the federal economic-stimulus legislation.
For the upcoming summer session, which will serve approximately 20,000 students, Houston officials plan to recruit top teachers using information from the district’s value-added system.
Several other districts, such as Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and Providence, R.I., have also begun efforts to make summer school engaging for students and attractive to teachers, largely through better alignment of academic and enrichment opportunities. And according to officials at the Baltimore-based National Summer Learning Association, the federal economic-stimulus legislation put about $100 million into summer programs, some of which take a similar approach.
But as school leaders acknowledge, changing the conversation about summer school is still a heavy lift.
“You’re recruiting teachers for the next school year, trying to find the right principals, ordering textbooks, and deep-cleaning schools and reservicing buses,” said Terry Grier, the Houston superintendent. “And then there’s this thing called summer school, and for a lot of folks, it’s an afterthought.”...