Advancing Summer Opportunities to Stem Pre-K – 5 Learning Loss and Accelerate High School Engagement
To: Governor Polis, Commissioner Anthes, Executive Director Barnes, Local and State Leaders:
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended life around the globe for the last year for families and children, especially for those furthest from opportunity.
Intuitively, we know children need targeted support to address the short- and long-term impacts to student learning and social and emotional needs. More importantly, data and experience confirm and underscore these needs, including from the daily interactions of educators in child care centers and schools across the state as well as from findings from the recent needs assessments conducted by the Colorado Education Initiative (CEI) and the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) (spring report, fall report), as well as from parent interviews and early childhood sector surveys by Early Milestones Colorado. Through these efforts, district and BOCES leaders across our state have raised urgent needs including recovery in PreK-5 and high school with embedded support for social emotional development. State leaders have a unique opportunity now to creatively address these issues and create a Recovery Summer for Colorado kids.
A group of education practitioners and partners have held meetings over the last several months to make sense of these issues and discuss what it will take to help children recover from the pandemic.
The group’s focus and expertise intentionally ranged from early childhood through high school, with emphasis on a whole-picture approach and creating conditions for collaboration. The majority of participants around the table are practitioners and community providers – individuals who are in child care centers, schools, and districts day in and day out, witnessing firsthand what children and families need most. As a result, we feel uniquely positioned to suggest the following ideas for how we collectively maximize this upcoming summer and position children to enter the 2021-22 school year ready to thrive.
We are at a significant pivot point between the disruption of the past 12 months into the long-term recovery for the future.
It will take a variety of partners to implement the proposed actions listed below and we would like you to join the effort, with multiple groups and leaders leveraging work to benefit children. We must act collectively and create a different experience so that the necessary healing and growth can begin. Schools will be critical hubs for recovery, but they can’t do it all, especially this summer. Community-based approaches this summer will be essential for meeting the moment. This will require agencies and organizations to work with new partners, braid and blend funds, seek out opportunities to break down traditional silos, and develop strategies to distribute federal funds aimed at supporting student needs over the summer.
We have identified six priority areas and one overarching approach for the upcoming summer. They fit into two categories – supports for families, and strategies to leverage systems and structures.
Center equity and provide supports for the whole child.
We implore you to focus your efforts on supporting chronically underserved students: specifically Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian-American, and multi-racial students, as well as English language learners, and students from families living on low income, experiencing homelessness, experiencing abuse and neglect, or identified as having learning differences such as those in need of special education services and supports.
Acknowledge and address the whole child.
Address children’s needs holistically through learning and social opportunities. Identify opportunities for students to access a range of social emotional services and supports and counseling services, free of charge.
- What this will take: Partnerships with counties and local public health as well as various summer providers. Services need to be offered to students as well as educators. Leverage funding and support from the Office of Behavioral Health as well as the Expelled and At Risk Student Services (EARSS) grant to increase counseling over the summer. Foster peer-to-peer support programs and training.
Supports for Families
Foster partnerships with families.
Summer is a time to build connections with families. If you are launching a program or serving students in some way, we implore you to connect with their families around their child’s learning and wellness needs.
- What this will take: Intentional design around family engagement. Translating offerings into multiple languages. Bringing families in as partners around their child’s learning. Practicing clear and consistent communication with families.
Invest directly in families.
Parents know their children and their needs best; we need resources to get directly in the hands of families so they can support their children this summer.
- The state has the opportunity to allocate funding directly to families, in a limited manner focused tightly on this summer, especially those most deeply impacted by COVID who may not yet be ready to return to group settings. Recognizing affluent families often see summer as a time to enrich their child’s learning, this summer we must make those valuable experiences available to families that cannot afford supplemental, outside-of-school enrichment opportunities.
Easy parent navigation.
We support and encourage the development of parent-focused information sharing systems, so parents can easily find and navigate opportunities for their children.
- What this will take: In the near term, share information with parents about opportunities for their children. Link to partners that are also providing services, so parents can learn about multiple opportunities for multiple ages of children in one place. Ultimately, a state investment in a one-stop-shop for parents to know about what services and supports are available for their child will be a valuable resource for families.
Strategies to Leverage Systems and Structures
Wrap around supports.
We encourage you to find ways to expand child care, summer school, tutoring, out of school time and after school programs so that children have safe places to build their knowledge, strengthen relationships, and address any learning losses that may have occurred.
- What this will take: Ensuring students can access free programs by providing transportation at no- or low-costs as well as bringing the services to kids. For example, mobile preschools, book mobiles, and summer learning pods. These efforts will require partnerships with schools and districts as well as other providers.
Leverage our existing community assets.
We ask you to leverage and allocate state and local resources to support students’ social, emotional, and academic needs.
- What this will take: Children must be able to access our community spaces, such as libraries, parks, recreation centers, museums, public spaces at no or minimal cost. When utilizing those spaces, they should be hubs of support for children. Through partnerships, these should be spaces where children can access food services, counseling, and tutoring services.
Foster success through and after high school.
We encourage you to identify and advance opportunities for course recovery. Support students to earn course credit and income for internships and summer learning opportunities.
- What this will take: Partnerships with businesses, community and local colleges, summer schools, and volunteer/community learning opportunities. Incentives for summer youth employment programs at the city and county level. We encourage working with students to identify how they can meet graduation guidelines in creative ways to highlight their knowledge and skills. We also encourage partnerships between local business and school districts so that these summer experiences can count toward graduation requirements, including funding flexibility with 21st century learning grants.
Please join us as a partner in the Recovery Summer. Reach out to your partners, review your budgets and identify what within the listed priorities you can help advance. As a group of partners, we plan to develop more guidance around what implementing these priorities can look like across the state and we stand ready to work hand in hand with you all to ensure this vision becomes reality. We stand ready to meet with local and state level decision makers to discuss any of the recommendations, what community driven implementation might look like and how the potential influx of federal funds can be leveraged for an equity focused Recovery Summer.
Alamosa School District
Boys & Girls Clubs in Colorado
Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Denver
Boys & Girls Clubs of Pueblo County
Caring for Colorado Foundation
Clear Creek School District
Colorado Afterschool Partnership
Colorado Children’s Campaign
Colorado Education Initiative
Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition
Colorado Youth for Change
Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Denver Preschool Program
Denver’s Early Childhood Council
Don Trujillo/R-5 High School
Early Childhood Council for Yuma, Washington, and Kit Carson Counties
Early Childhood Council of La Plata County
Early Childhood Council Leadership Alliance
Early Childhood Council of Larimer County
Early Childhood Leadership Commission
Early Childhood Partnership of Adams County
Early Connections Learning Centers
Early Milestones Colorado
ECHO & Family Center Early Childhood Council
East Grand School District
Executives Partnering to Invest in Children (EPIC)
Family Resource Center Association
Families Forward Resource Center
Galileo Learning Colorado (Camp Galileo)
German Echevarria/Sheridan High School
Institute for Racial Equity and Excellence
Lake County Dept of Human Services
La Luz Education
Mesa County Partnership for Children & Families
Mile High United Way
Pueblo City-County Library District
Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Council
Rose Community Foundation
Stand for Children Colorado
Summit School District
Teachers Professional Resource
Young Americans Center for Financial Education