Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina State Board of Education approved Monday summer school guidelines, spurred by a new state law requiring every school district to offer an in-person summer school program.
The board approved the guidelines and a new assessment for summer learning students without opposition Monday. The guidance documents include a form that districts must complete showing how they intend to run their summer learning programs.
Under the new law, SL2021-7, the “school extension program,” this summer can be either 30 days or 150 hours. It doesn’t come with any additional funding from the state, as schools are expected to be able to use federal COVID-19 stimulus funds to run the programs.
Schools may not have formal summer school in a typical year, sticking to only state-required summer learning camps, such as the Read to Achieve camp. North Carolina Department of Public Instruction data show just more than 7,400 students enrolling across the state during the 2015-2016 academic year — the latest year of available data — less than a fifth of the more than 42,000 students who faced the prospect of being held back from promotion to the next grade level.
The new law requires kindergarten through 8th grade math and reading instruction, 3rd grade through 8th grade science instruction, physical activity for kindergarten through 8th grade students, meal service, transportation and social-emotional learning supports.
For 9th through 12 grades, summer programs must offer a variety of courses to allow students to recover credits, core courses and at least one elective.
Before summer starts, the form approved Monday stipulates that school districts must submit to DPI a budget and compensation plan, as well as attendance policies and records.
Schools will use a new assessment test at the beginning of the summer for those who enroll in kindergarten through 8th grade summer learning, and schools must later report how many summer students ended up progressing to the next grade level., DPI officials said.
The summer program is intended for students whom schools have determined are “at risk” of falling behind grade level.
Schools will inform those students and their guardians that they are at risk and have the option to attend summer school. Students who aren’t at risk may be able to attend summer school if eventual enrollment leaves room for them to do so.
Kindergarten students who don’t attend summer school can’t be automatically retained for another year of kindergarten for not attending. On Monday, state officials said guardians could still ask for retention, if they wanted it, and schools could weigh that request.
While summer school attendance is optional, districts may end up choosing to retain struggling students if they choose not to attend.