Summer school: New research cites benefit of re-socialization

MADISON – The pandemic put a pause on a lot of things, including in-person learning. But beyond a gap in education, researchers have found virtual learning has caused another delay for students.

When it comes to sitting still in a classroom for hours at a time, raising our hand with questions, or working with others on group projects, we often forget these skills had to be learned. So, when virtual learning has students working alone with a computer for nearly two years, there are bound to be a few socio-emotional setbacks.

That’s what researchers at the Wisconsin Policy Forum found in one of its recent studies. Sara Shaw is the main author of that study and says some school districts have found re-socialization to be a big factor in the return to in-person learning.

“Superintendents are telling me their second-graders, in particular, are having a lot of trouble because you’re no longer in a little kid’s body, but if you haven’t learned about how to sit or how to play nicely or how to cooperate, then those can be difficult skills that we often need to be explicitly taught,” Shaw said.

Summer school often has the stigma of being for students that have fallen behind or are at risk of not graduating. However, the new research has found parents are using it as a tool to re-introduce their student to a classroom environment.

“There are still some that think about summer school in that more traditional way, but it also has the opportunity to be treated as more learning time,” Shaw said. “And that learning time could be instructional-focused, but it could also be socio-emotional, mental health focused. The idea being that with all of the interruptions to learning that Covid brought, gosh, could we use more time.”

According to the research, the most effective summer school programs feature high-quality instruction, a positive school climate, and consistent attendance. Shaw said because of federal funding from the pandemic, districts are able to build a more robust summer school than what they’ve typically had in previous years.