Catching Up or Getting Ahead with Online Summer School Programs


Amanda Cunningham
Thursday, March 24, 2016 - 12:00pm

The Summer School Problem

Many young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer break. Typically, students lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills, and low-income students lose an additional two months in reading achievement—despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains according to the National Summer Learning Association.

Summer school can be a great opportunity for students to stay engaged, catch up, or get ahead. But to offer a summer school program, schools and districts must overcome many challenges, including:

  • Obtaining district approval and funding
  • Staffing classes with only a small pool of teachers available.
  • Providing engaging content to students with widely diverse skill levels
  • Being able to offer students a limited time in class

A New Solution                                                                      

Summer school doesn’t need to be the un-air-conditioned agony that students and teachers imagine it to be. Instead, it can be an opportunity to help students stay on track to graduate, get ahead with core courses, or be inspired with career-building electives. 

Whether it’s a high school senior needing a math credit for graduation, a sophomore wanting to take an exploratory elective, or a middle school student interested in taking a world language class, online summer programs and online credit recovery can provide the solution to the challenges of summer school.


When schools and districts use online curriculum, summer school classes can be offered fully online, or in a blended instructional environment, or as strictly in-person instruction. What’s more, with online courses, there is no need to fill a class, which makes it easy and affordable to offer more course options. Whether courses are delivered in a school lab setting, at home, or a combination of both, online summer school courses allow students to work at their pace. Districts can use their own teachers to provide instruction for online original credit or credit recovery courses, or they can use teachers provided by the online course provider.

For online credit recovery programs, students who did not pass a course initially have usually learned enough to make a complete repetition of the course unnecessary. In these courses, students can test out of the material they've already learned and focus on what they need to demonstrate achievement of essential content standards.

But What Are the Results?

In 2014, when lack of funding meant onsite summer school was no longer an option, Trigg County, in Cadiz, Kentucky, was able to offer summer programs via online courses. The online summer school program was vital to keeping students on track for on-time graduation. It also allowed them to expand their world language and elective offerings—permitting students to study languages and explore careers the school wouldn’t have been able to provide in a traditional classroom.

As a result, the state of Kentucky recognized Trigg County High School as a District of Innovation, which enables the school to now take advantage of certain state waivers.  

For North Clackamas Schools in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, moving summer school online enabled them to take an established program and dramatically extend its reach so that more students were able to recover credits and get back on track for on-time graduation. The district was able to enroll a record 496 students with 83 percent of them completing their programs and recovering credits successfully.

In Gwinnett County, Georgia, more than 2,000 students were able to take summer classes through online courses, making summer school less of an onerous chore for students and schools alike.

Find your new options for summer school programs!


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