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Calif. Campaign Urges Schools to Seize on Summer Learning Opportunities

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By guest blogger Alyssa Morones

Through a series of new reports, a California-based coalition is encouraging schools to take full advantage of their summers by using the time to prevent learning loss and encourage social, emotional, and academic growth in students. The documents focus in particular on the experiences of summer programs in six California communities, highlighting the impact on both students and teachers.

Key goals of the series include helping educators learn effective strategies to help meet the Common Core State Standards under limited time constraints and to supplement students' social and emotional growth, as well as teacher and staff development. According to a press release, the campaign hopes to inform district leaders' decisions in spending money on summer school offerings. 

The report comes from the Summer Matters Campaign, a California coalition of educators, policymakers, advocates, and district leaders and community members who work to encourage learning programs during the summer months.

"Summer learning programs give educators implementing the common core a unique opportunity to experiment with new lesson plans and assess their effectiveness in a low-pressure, but very genuine learning environment," said John Deasy, the superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District, in the press release.

The campaign, according to the press release, is "barnstorming the state" as districts start planning and budgeting for summer 2013, delivering what it says are thousands of copies of the new reports to district leaders and urging them to "invest" some of their local dollars on summer learning initiatives.

The report series focuses on work underway in six California communities. Through a series of surveys, focus groups, and observations, the data presented show how these programs can be helpful to districts and support student learning, especially for students from low income families and English-language learners, for whom the effects of summer learning loss are greatest.

The campaign website lists three common values found in the reports:
• Community partners and after-school providers bringing staff, leveraging resources, and creating the engaging camp culture and project-based approaches that engage and motivate students;
• An intentional quality improvement process, coupled with targeted support from a program expert; and
• Prioritizing continual staff development.

The first report, titled Getting a Headstart on the Common Core, describes ways that summer learning experiences can prepare students for the common-core integration in their classrooms and how teachers can use summer programs to experiment with new lesson plans and teaching strategies. 

The Teaching Kids How to Succeed in School report describes how summer programs are structured to support students' social and emotional development and the connections these lessons have to student engagement and achievement and school climate.

A High Impact Training Ground for Teachers and Staff, the third and final report, describes the professional development opportunities that summer programs provide and how these activities can align to district priorities.

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