This blog is part two of a series, read part one here.
“We have to think beyond learning loss. We have to also ask ourselves, ‘What was gained? What did we learn?’ We need to quickly shore up areas where support is needed and to keep moving forward. We can’t remediate our way out of this. We need to prioritize our way out.”
We ended Part 1 of Slow and Steady Summer School Planning with the above words from Meg Lee, Director of Organizational Development at Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS). If you haven’t read it already, read it here and learn more about a summer school program that leverages the power of the Three Truths framework:
- Preparing students for our changing world
- Infusing the science of learning and human development into our schools
- Ensuring deep, systematic equity for all children to thrive.
In this follow-up post, we describe how FCPS approached the design of their summer school program and provide actionable steps for leaders and educators to leverage the Three Truths as you implement your own summer school program.
Grounding Summer School design within the context of our changing world, the science of learning and human development, and systemic equity.
The Three Truths Framework provides three lenses through which to base decisions on curricular and pedagogical choices – including summer school. The most impactful decisions lie at the intersection of the three truths, as shown in the figure below.
Figure 1: The Three Truths Framework
Source: Three Truths for the Future of School by Julie Jungalwala and Julie Stern, book forthcoming
At FCPS, the goal of their summer program is to help students reconnect with learning and with each other. Why is this important? For several years, FCPS has been working towards an evidence informed school system grounded in mind, brain education research. As they approached the design of their summer school program, the science of learning and human development was the touchstone that informed all of their decisions. Leading with this truth, they knew that academic gains rely on getting the brain ready for learning first – and that requires addressing the social-emotional needs of the learners first.
The district also has an Equity Office that provides training, materials and support for teachers to have uncomfortable conversations and to honor different perspectives. The team in this office reached out personally to many students, inviting them to participate in the summer program. This work is grounded in cultural proficiency and it began in 2016. Over the last six months, two new specialists were added to the Equity Office team. The team has gotten bigger because the need is so great. The cultural proficiency journey, at its core, is a personal one – and it requires dedicated resources and support.
Teachers and administrators at FCPS are continually seeking ways in which to make the curriculum relevant to students’ interests, strengths and the opportunities of an ever-changing world. The summer school program incorporates this focus across all grade levels, for example; the STEM focus at the elementary level includes planning for students to create solar bots and catapults. The design weaves many of the skills and habits of mind needed to thrive in an unknowable future (a reality in which we have all had a crash course in the last fifteen or so months), and enables students to develop critical skills such as learning to learn, executive functioning, and creative problem solving.
What about the adults? The majority of whom have experienced a year+ of personal and professional upheaval? Parameters were put in place to alleviate the stress of planning and facilitating the program. The district recognized that too often teachers are asked to do additional work, with no additional compensation. They secured funding to compensate those teachers who volunteered and who wanted to participate in summer school. Those volunteers are the teacher leaders who are the key people in alleviating the stress on the teachers who are teaching. The district also offers MSDE Continuity of Learning credits so those teachers can move up the salary scale and the district continues to work with the union to offer additional incentives.
FCPS is taking an holistic design approach to its summer program, with much of the curricula and pedagogical choices residing at the intersection of the Three Truths Framework.
Reflecting on Your Program
As you reflect on the design of your summer school program, think about where your program falls on the below continuum. Then, consider the action steps you can take in the next section.
Figure 2: Summer School Reflection Rubric
|Our Changing World||Our summer school program emphasizes memorization of existing knowledge and skills without regard to promoting life-long learning and adaptability.
Students are not asked to transfer their learning to new situations.
|Our summer school program has some aspects that promote life-long learning and adaptability, such as integrating passion projects, digital literacy, or harnessing students’ lived experiences into coursework.
Students are rarely asked to transfer their learning to new situations.
|Our summer school program clearly promotes and emphasizes life-long learning and adaptability, with an emphasis on fostering curiosity, collaboration, and a passion for learning.
Students regularly transfer their learning to new situations.
|Science of Learning and Human Development||Our summer school program looks a lot like previous year’s summer school programs, without much thought given to the emotional impact of the past year.||Our summer school program reflects some aspects of what we know about how young people learn and develop, including helping children and adults to socialize and process the events of the past year, reflect on the positives, and build habits of resilience.||Our summer school program clearly reflects knowledge from the science of learning and development because it systematically helps children and adults to socialize and process the events of the past year, reflect on the positives, and build habits of resilience.|
|The Time for Systemic Equity||Our summer school program mostly passes down the habits and ways of being of historically dominant power structures.
Diverse cultures, perspectives, narratives, and ways of being are not considered on a large scale.
|Our summer school program has some elements of equity built in, such as:
||The leaders and implementers of our summer school program intentionally and systematically question assumptions and interrogate structures and habits with the purpose of promoting equity and providing all students experiences that are tailored to their unique potential for learning and developing.
Time and resources are dedicated to ensuring that all students, and particularly our most vulnerable or historically marginalized populations, experience summer programming intentionally designed to provide for strong relationships, environments filled with safety and belonging, rich learning experiences, the development of habits, skills, and mindsets, and integrated systems of support.
Diverse cultures, narratives, and ways of being are comprehensively incorporated into our summer school program.
Now that you’ve reflected on your current plans, here are some action steps and concrete ideas to move closer towards the leading section of the continuum. Hopefully these will spark some ideas for quick ways to upgrade your summer school plans.
Figure 3: Action Steps for Summer School Enhancement
|Truths||Possible Action Steps||Might Look Like|
|Our Changing World||
|Science of Learning and Human Development||
|The Time for Systemic Equity||
We hope these ideas provide insight and inspiration into how we can harness this moment in time to build the type of schools our children deserve. We also want to acknowledge the incredible difficulty the present moment poses for school leaders and teachers, and we thank you for your commitment to our young people and our communities. May we also recommend that school leaders and teachers find their own personal support and strategies to process the events of the past year. Together, and with care, we will see our way out of the lingering fog of COVID, and build school systems that are stronger than ever. Stay tuned for more from us on how the Three Truths Framework can help busy leaders and teachers navigate today’s complex world.
Authors’ note: We’d like to thank Joaquin Tamayo from SoLD Alliance for his contribution to this post.