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Why–and How–Two Districts Transformed Their Summer Programs

Episode 5: A Hot Time for Summer Learning
May 29, 2024
A white boy and black girl sitting on ground in a school playground playing with wood blocks, other children playing
Host & Guests

Host: Claudia DeMegret, Senior Program Officer, The Wallace Foundation 

claudia-demegret, host

Nancy Gannon, Senior Advisor of Teaching and Learning, FHI 360 

Nancy Gannon photo

Matt Brewster, Director of the Office of Staff Development, Newark Public Schools 

Matt Brewster

Andrew Maxey, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Tuscaloosa City Schools 

Andrew Maxey, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Tuscaloosa City Schools

We set out to identify and pursue quality and to build partnerships along the way so that this [summer learning programming] is not owned only by the district, but it's a community commitment to this work.

— Andrew Maxey

About the Episode

In the fifth episode of A Hot Time for Summer Learning, Wallace spotlights how Alabama’s Tuscaloosa City Schools and New Jersey’s Newark Public Schools have completely re-imagined their summer learning programs, shifting from traditional summer school models to engaging, evidence-based experiences that help students learn and build new interests and skills.

Both districts are part of The District Summer Learning Network (DSLN), which helps more than 90 school districts (and six states) reshape their summer programs, with a focus on academics and wellbeing. FHI 360 designed DSLN and provides districts and states with coaching, professional development and peer learning opportunities, and New York University manages the research. DSLN is funded by The Wallace Foundation.

The discussion explores each district’s unique approach to this shift, from how they adjusted program design and professional development to how they cultivated community and district buy-in. These approaches have translated to educators’ heightened interest in staffing summer learning programs, increased demand and enrollment from young people and their families, and impressive outcomes at both the individual student and school levels. 

About the Series

High-quality summer learning plays an important role in the lives of our nation’s young people. Summer learning programs can bolster academic knowledge and skills and connect young people to engaging and enriching learning experiences. In the wake of the pandemic, high-quality summer learning programming has become an essential part of children’s learning recovery and well-being. A multi-part podcast series from The Wallace Foundation features leading field experts, researchers and practitioners who are involved in summer learning and enrichment on the national, state, and local levels.

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