Summer School Is Here

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Education Briefing

But there aren’t enough teachers to help students catch up.

Amelia NierenbergKate Taylor

June 30, 2021, 12:02 p.m. ET

This is the Education Briefing, a weekly update on the most important news in American education. We’re going on summer break, but sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox next fall.

Today: The start of summer school and a legal win for transgender students.


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Credit...Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

As the U.S. emerges from the worst of the pandemic, this summer is a critical opportunity for students to make up ground academically and re-engage with school.

But with more students than usual set to take summer classes in many cities, many schools are once again being forced to play catch-up.

“This on-ramp to summer has been really rapid,” said Christine Pitts, who helped lead an analysis of summer programming for the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

A vast majority of large school districts are offering some kind of summer school this year, according to that analysis.

A typical district is offering about five weeks of programming. Some are offering both in-person and remote summer classes, others only in-person, and a small number only remote. Many are combining academic instruction with activities like field trips, art projects and outdoor recreation.

“It’s really important that we kind of reintroduce the school day to kids this summer: ‘By the way, this is what it feels like to learn for four hours at a time and be engaged academically,’” Pitts said. “Part of it is balancing building that stamina in the learning and also making sure we’re allowing kiddos to have that time for peer-to peer connections.”

Here’s a selected rundown:

New York City and Los Angeles, the two largest U.S. districts, are offering summer school to all students for the first time. About 100,000 students are attending classes in L.A. In New York, where the spring semester only just ended, 200,000 students have signed up, and the city is still encouraging more families to enroll.

Philadelphia plans to serve 15,000 students, about triple its usual amount. Some students will be in classrooms for the first time since March 2020.

Roughly 12,000 students have attended the summer program hosted by Guilford County Schools in North Carolina so far, about 10 times as many as in previous, nonpandemic years. Broward County, Fla., will have about 45,000 students, up from about 8,000 to 10,000.

But there are challenges: A Missouri district had to move two of its programs online after more than half of its students tested positive or had to quarantine. And old buildings aren’t always equipped for summer heat: Some schools in New Jersey do not have air-conditioners, and students are sweltering behind masks.

Many districts have had trouble finding enough teachers for summer school, as worn-out educators understandably want a break from a stressful year.

Fairfax, Va., announced it would have to delay a summer program for about 1,200 students with disabilities for about a month as the district looked for more educators, The Washington Post reported. Nearby Arlington also reduced its summer program to 3,000 from 5,000 students because of staff shortages.

Chicago, which is hoping to serve 50,000 more students than usual, still has 67 teacher vacancies and is offering teachers who agree to work in the understaffed programs an extra $200 in pay per week.

And while summer school enrollment is up about 30 percent in Watertown-Mayer Public Schools, in Minnesota, the district has struggled to find enough adults to staff the program. In mid-June, it was considering hiring paraprofessionals from outside the district or even high school students to fill the spots.

“This year, more than any others, teachers were burnt out,” Darren Schuler, the superintendent, told a local news station. “This is the one summer where teachers needed that time to recalibrate and start fresh next school year.”


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Credit...Al Drago/The New York Times

The Supreme Court will not hear a case challenging the bathroom rights of transgender people, leaving in place an appeals court ruling that a Virginia school board’s policy violated the Constitution and a federal law.

“Having to go to out-of-the-way bathrooms severely interfered with my education,” said Gavin Grimm, who was barred by the Gloucester school board from using the boys’ bathroom. “Trans youth deserve to use the bathroom in peace without being humiliated and stigmatized by their own school boards and elected officials.”

Last year, the court for the first time ruled in favor of transgender rights, saying that a federal employment discrimination law applied to L.G.B.T.Q. workers. But Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority, said the ruling did not address access to restrooms.

Now, with the yearslong battle over the Virginia bathroom case at an end, advocates say the fight has moved on.

“What were headlines about bathroom fights years ago has been replaced with athletic bans and trans medical bans,” Melanie Willingham-Jaggers of the L.G.B.T.Q. student group GLSEN told The Washington Post.


  • Wednesday is the last day to apply for federal financial aid, or FAFSA.

  • A powerful N.C.A.A. panel recommended that college athletes be allowed to profit off their names, images and likenesses.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law mandating that Florida’s public universities take “viewpoint” surveys of their populations to assess political diversity, potentially threatening state funding.

  • The trustees of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will vote on Wednesday whether to grant the Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure.

  • The Yale School of Drama will be tuition-free moving forward, after a $150 million donation from the entertainment mogul David Geffen.

  • An opinion in Politico: Sheryll Cashin, a law professor at Georgetown, argues that colleges should consider permanently disregarding the SAT and ACT.

  • A good read from The Times: Medical schools in the Caribbean often fail their students, our colleague Emma Goldberg reports.


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