MCPS is expanding its summer school program offerings and will allow students to take courses for free. The steps will help compose a future countywide initiative — one which the school district has not yet publicly announced — to address pandemic-induced learning gaps.
The new offerings include a virtual summer school program and an in-person option that MCPS will provide at all of its schools. In a shift from the current hybrid learning model, the latter program will consist of a fully in-person schedule.
High school students are also now able to complete any course required for graduation. MCPS previously limited students to a narrow selection of on-level courses.
“There’s a real sense of urgency about this,” said MCPS Director of College and Career Readiness and Districtwide Programs Scott Murphy. “One of the things that’s different this year is that every single summer program offering will be at no cost to students.”
Prior to this year, MCPS summer courses cost up to $300 per three-week semester class.
“In the past, summer school has definitely been targeted at wealthier families in terms of getting ahead in school,” said sophomore Shreekanya Mitra, who plans on taking Honors World History this summer. “Now that it’s free, more students can have these opportunities.”
Free summer school courses — and no-cost transportation to the programs — will play a key role in a long-term plan that the school district hopes to implement to address the pandemic’s contribution to educational inequities, Murphy said. MCPS has not publicly revealed this initiative, but school district officials intend to present the plan to the Board of Education in the coming months, according to Murphy.
Murphy declined to comment on the details of what the initiative will entail, but he told The Black & White that the plan will focus on MCPS’ schools with the highest poverty levels.
“[The plan] will include summer programs, tutoring and other ways of addressing learning recovery to make sure that our students who have been most impacted by the pandemic are prioritized,” Murphy said.
The school district’s improvement efforts come amid nationwide setbacks in student academic performance, setbacks that have hit low-income and minority communities the hardest. Over the past year, MCPS officials have seen these inequities manifest the most in mathematics and literacy at the elementary levels, said Board of Education member Patricia O’Neill. These subjects will be the focus of generalized elementary and middle school summer instruction, O’Neill said.
“Math is really at the top of the list,” O’Neill said. “Particularly in elementary school, there were topics that were skipped or glossed over. Math is a sequential building block in the early grades. We’ve got to fill in those gaps.”
Last year, parents’ fears of learning loss and MCPS’ targeted student outreach efforts led to increased participation in summer courses, O’Neill said. Nearly 50,000 students participated in the programs in 2020. With reduced program costs and expanded course offerings, O’Neill expects enrollment to further increase this upcoming summer, she said.
After nearly 13 months of virtual learning, Murphy said he believes that this summer — along with MCPS’ broader recovery initiative — will be the starting point for students’ return to normalcy.
“Given the level of disruption of learning — unfinished learning — as well as the well-being and social-emotional state of each individual student,” Murphy said, “this is really one small part of a much longer-term plan to address the disruptions everyone has had.”
Registration for MCPS summer programs opens May 3. For more information, visit the 2021 MCPS Summer School Programs webpage.