05 SES 15 A, Preventing and Reducing Educational Risks during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Internationally, summer schools have been organized and studied as a means to prevent and remediate learning deficits in school-age children (e.g., Cooper, Charlton, Valentine & Muhlenbruck, 2000; Kim & Quinn, 2013). Their focus on academic learning puts summer schools among other types of out-of-school-time programs (e.g. after-school tutoring) that are meant to provide students with additional opportunities to reach academic goals. As children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and children who are not proficient in the language of instruction are especially at risk of developing learning deficits, they have been frequently targeted by summer school initiatives (Lauer et al., 2006). In Flanders, as in many other countries around the world, the COVID-19 outbreak has had severe consequences for the organization of schooling, as schools were forced to rapidly switch to forms of distance education. Despite the efforts of many teachers and school principals, concerns have been formulated about the quality of the distance education offered and about the impact on students’ learning and achievement (Maldonado & De Witte, 2020). Acting upon these concerns, the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training has stimulated and supported the organization of summer schools as a means to remediate learning deficits grown during the period of COVID-related school closures. According to the Ministry’s guidelines, summer schools had to align their approach with known characteristics of effective summer schools, such as small group size and strong instructional focus. Using a mixed-method approach, we studied the characteristics of all 138 summer schools that were set up in Flanders during the summer of 2020. Digital questionnaires were administered from summer school coordinators and teachers, as well as from the attending pupils and their parents. Additionally, 11 summer schools were studied in depth, by means of classroom observations and interviews with key stakeholders. Results indicated that Flemish summer schools tended to be successful in attracting at-risk students. Considerable differences between summer schools were found, however, as to how they have managed to gather information on children’s learning needs and were able to tailor their program to these needs. Also, instructional focus in summer schools seemed lower than intended by the government. Although generally stakeholders assessed Flemish summer schools as successful, these findings rise doubts on how effective Flemish summer schools have been in actually remediating COVID-related learning deficits.
Cooper, H., Charlton, K., Valentine, J. C., & Muhlenbruck, L. (2000). Making the most of summer school: A meta-analytic and narrative review. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 65(1, Serial No. 260). Kim, J. S., & Quinn, D. M. (2013). The effects of summer reading on low-income children’s literacy achievement from kindergarten to grade 8: A meta-analysis of classroom and home interventions. Review of Educational Research, 83(3), 386-431. Lauer, P. A., Akiba, M., Wilkerson, S. B., Apthorp, H. S., Snow, D., & Martin-Glenn, M. L. (2006). Out-of-school-time programs: A meta-analysis of effects for at-risk students. Review of Educational Research, 76(2), 275-313. Maldonado, J. E., & DeWitte, K. (2020). The Effect of School Closures on Standardized Student Test Outcomes. Leuven, Belgium: University of Leuven.
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