Roughly 10,000 Newark public school students need summer school this year, district says

A boy with a blue backpack runs across the street in front of a school building in Newark.
State test scores showed dismal results and highlighted the pandemic’s toll on student learning, prompting Newark to identify about 10,000 students in need of summer school this year. (Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat)

About 10,000 Newark Public Schools students — double the number from last year —are in need of mandatory summer school, a program that the district said will focus on filling academic gaps, reinforcing skills, and preparing students for the next school year.

In Newark, mandatory summer school is based on attendance, grades, and state test scores. Officials said the increase in students mandated to attend this year was due in part to the delayed release of last year’s state test scores, which were the first taken by students since 2019.

The scores, released in fall 2022, showed dismal results and highlighted the pandemic’s toll on student learning, prompting the district to identify “about 10,000 Newark students in need of summer school,” out of roughly 35,000 public school students, according to a district committee report.

Elementary students who do not attend within the first three days may lose their seats and high schoolers enrolled in the accelerated program must attend every day to keep their spots, according to the district website.

The number of students enrolled in summer school also doubled but the district did not provide exact numbers in its report. Last summer, more than 10,000 students between kindergarten and 12th grade attended the district’s summer programming, including mandatory summer school, according to a district press release.

“Tutoring and accelerated learning are two factors that are designed to assist us in addressing the impact of learning loss,” Nancy Deering, the district’s acting communications director, said in an email to Chalkbeat Newark. “The on-going support of parents and their families is extremely important and much appreciated.”

State tests known as the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment, or NJSLA, which Newark students took in spring 2022, showed 13% of students passed their math state tests while about 27% passed their English language arts exam. Learning loss, paired with the drop in math and language arts state test scores and concerns about student achievement, is leading Newark to double down on summer programs this year that target academic performance. 

Summer school sites increased this year so students have “more opportunities,” said Superintendent Roger León during May’s school board meeting. He also said the city is “taking on seven sites to help us accelerate learning and mandatory summer school in the elementary schools.”

This year’s summer school program will “accelerate” learning and focus on student recovery from the learning loss experienced due to the pandemic, León added. 

Newark will offer summer school at 14 sites for students entering kindergarten through eighth grade this fall. The district expanded its summer plus program, which combines academic and enrichment activities to improve math and reading skills and help students prepare for the next school year, according to the district’s summer programs brochure

León also said this is the first time in decades that nearly all of the district’s high schools will be open during the summer. Dozens of academic and enrichment programs, including internships, will be offered for high schoolers this year. 

Twelve schools will offer credit recovery for high schoolers to ensure students are on track to graduate and support those who have recently transferred into the district, the committee report noted. The report also said the district would offer students the opportunity to complete modules, but said it “is not an open option” for all. 

High school students in the summer program will take non-core classes for learning acceleration to have “more opportunities during the school year for dual enrollment,” the district’s committee report said. The expectation is for over 2,800 high school students to participate in summer programs at the high school, according to the report. 

Newark will also offer the “Future Leaders Program” to 50 students who will intern throughout district departments and get paid as part of the city’s summer youth and training program

The Extended School Year program will also be available this year for students with disabilities. Students in this program require services beyond the traditional school year under their Individual Education Program and will receive academic and behavioral support in the morning.

The district will also offer the newcomers high school program designed to help English language learners who have recently arrived in the country. The program will be held at Barringer and East Side high schools and provides a learning environment to help students ease into a new high school, according to the district’s summer programs brochure.  

During April’s school board meeting, León said the district will monitor the progress of students this summer and create an impact study during the summer or by the start of next school year. León also said students who attend charter, private, or parochial schools in Newark can also participate in the district’s summer enrichment programs. 

Newark continues to accept staff applications for teachers interested in working during the summer. Currently, 23 instructional summer positions are open, according to the district’s job board page online.

Jessie Gomez is a reporter for Chalkbeat Newark, covering public education in the city. Contact Jessie at jgomez@chalkbeat.org

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