To address COVID learning loss, Indianapolis Public Schools expands summer school options

A masked teacher with glasses, wearing a red shirt and brown slacks, looks at a laptop as she sits at a desk separated by a folding white partition from the row in front where another person sits.
Indianapolis Public Schools will expands summer school to address learning loss from the pandemic. (Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action)

After seeing lagging test scores and dips in grades due to the pandemic, Indianapolis Public Schools plans to expand summer school for students. 

Besides district-run classes for struggling students, about a half-dozen programs run by the district or non-profit partners will variously offer IPS students English and math support and enrichment activities like field trips. 

“In order to really support our kids in catching up, we want to make sure we have many different options this summer for our students,” Warren Morgan, the district’s chief academics officer, said. 

An IPS official said the estimated costs “are still in the works.” 

Across the country, school districts are expanding summer school to combat learning loss after over a year into the pandemic. 

In IPS, a year of COVID and intermittent remote learning has set back student performance. Midyear test data showed a 2 percentage point decrease in math passing rates compared with the 2018-19 school year. English scores increased by 3 percentage points, but still only 25% of students in the second through eighth grades this year passed the test, known as NWEA.  

IPS has identified over 4,000 students who are struggling academically in core subjects. That includes more than 40% of high school students who have failed one or more core classes. The district will offer summer courses at 14 locations from June 7 to June 25. 

In addition, the district will have space for 800 first through ninth graders to attend a supplemental five-week summer program. Any student regardless of academic standing may apply for the “Summer Learning Labs,” which is a countywide partnership between The Mind Trust and the United Way of Central Indiana that includes IPS. The IPS program will be located at Harshman and Longfellow middle schools, and may be offered at other campuses as well. 

Also, for incoming ninth graders, IPS will offer a summer bridge program from July 12 to 26 where they can learn about riding an IndyGo bus, earn a physical education credit, get to know their high school campus, and meet teachers.

 “This year, we’ll be able to do it in person, which is really exciting,” said Jennifer O’Shea, the district’s postsecondary readiness officer.

Nearly half of the district’s innovation schools, which are independently run, publicly funded schools, are planning their own summer school programs as well. 

The district also will host programs that blend academic catch-up and enrichment, in partnerships with the non-profit group AYS, 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, and IUPUI. 

The six-week 100 Black Men of Indianapolis summer program will reinforce math and English in the morning and provide cultural enrichment, such as field trips to the library or swimming, in the afternoon — if the program takes place in person, an organization spokesman said. The group plans to serve up to 200 pre-K through eighth graders in its academy. 

The enrichment program through AYS — also known as At Your School, a before- and after-school program — will offer 100 IPS students science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics as well as social and emotional learning like mindfulness, breathing and stress-reduction techniques. AYS prices range from $60 for one day to $165 for three to five days a week. The group offers vouchers and other financial assistance to lower-income families. 

IUPUI will continue its BOSS camp, a five-day entrepreneurship camp where high school students get to market their ideas and learn skills like managing their own businesses and finances. 

IPS said one of its biggest challenges will be staffing summer school. Besides 195 teachers, it will need to hire nurses, counselors, graduation coaches, bilingual assistants, and instructional assistants. 

Officials said they will partner with the New Teacher Project to pair trainees with certified teachers. 

IPS students’ last day of school is June 3.

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