At this summer school, reclaiming what COVID stole

Uncommon Schools NYC

When educators at Uncommon Schools NYC thought about what their students needed the most this summer, they thought about literacy — and fun.

Like most students across America, Uncommon Schools’ students struggled to read on grade level during the challenging school year. Not having students in front of them made teaching literacy extremely challenging for teachers. It also made it hard for students to participate in the socialization that they need at a young age.

So school leaders created the Uncommon Schools Summer Success Program, with the twin goals of improving reading by one level over five weeks, and just letting students have fun and play with classmates that they hadn’t seen in months.

“April comes home every day excited and happy,” said Nikielle Daise, who describes her rising first grader as becoming more confident after participating in the summer program’s talent show. “She jumped on stage and just went off, I just love that. The school builds confidence-it’s empowerment.”

Uncommon Schools NYC

While the summer program is indeed fun and exciting, the play time is built around a five-week reading remediation program. Typically, during a regular school year, Uncommon runs 6-week reading instructional and assessment cycles and that was condensed for the summer into a 5-week window with extended literacy blocks. This means students participating in the summer program will have an additional and powerful instructional cycle before entering into the next grade level, allowing them to make up much needed ground and build belief in themselves as readers, according to Uncommon Schools’ blog about its summer program.

So far, the early data suggests that the majority of students in the summer program hit the target, benefiting most from being in person and small reading groups.

For rising sixth grader Shanae Powell, it was the right mix of work and play. “I’m going to have amazing memories, I had so much fun here,” she said. “Even though we did do work and we did take it seriously, we still had fun. We had things to do and we weren’t just sitting in the house.”

For fun every day, students got to choose among activities like dancing, singing, drawing, gymnastics and more.

“Some students are taking three trains to get here, which is a beautiful show of their commitment to want to go to summer school,” said Anita Ingram, the program’s director in NYC.

Teachers at Uncommon are already preparing for launching the new school year fully in person and are developing fun and engaging ways to help students reverse any learning loss. Leaders of the school even wrote about it in this blog.

Uncommon Schools runs 24 free, public K-12 charter schools in Brooklyn. It is the largest public charter school organization in Brooklyn. Students who attend Uncommon’s schools are on a path to college. Nearly 100 percent of the students who graduate from the K-12 schools go on to a four year university with enough scholarships to avoid debt, and they go on to graduate at among the highest rates in the U.S.

Some seats are still available at some of Uncommon Schools’ K-8 schools and families can apply here.