CMSD CEO says ‘Summer Learning Experience’ is not only a chance to catch up, but reimagine education

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Posted at 10:24 PM, Jun 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-04 01:37:10-04

CLEVELAND — If you’re in the Cleveland area you may notice billboards, mail listings, internet and television ads promoting the “CMSD Summer Learning Experience.”

“After a challenging year, Cleveland kids and families deserve something great,” the voiceover in the ad states.

It’s a campaign to get more of the 37,000 students in the district involved in summer learning.

“What we did lose is learning time and that is a reality coming out of the pandemic,” said Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon.

In Feb., Governor Mike Dewine asked school districts to come up with a plan to address the loss of learning the pandemic created.

CMSD has dealt with chronic absenteeism, poverty, and a deep digital divide; Gordon said the pandemic highlighted and heightened the disparities.

“All of those things complicated our last school year and how we were able to engage with our kids and their families,” he said. “Kids in our high schools went ahead and got jobs and went to work because they didn't have to go to physical school. We had young kids in preschool and kindergarten that didn't enroll this year because families were worried about the pandemic and middle school kids who are not always great at being self-directed.”

CMSD’s summer learning plan is a collaborative answer to Dewine’s demand from Gordon, CMSD staff, and Cleveland families.

“We knew that we needed to do something that was, first of all, way more exciting and interesting so kids would want to do it, but that would really involve all of our kids and getting reimbursed in learning,” said Gordon.

Gordon said the summer learning experience is not only about students catching up, but re-engaging in education.

There are two sessions: June 7-July 2 and July 12- Aug. 6.

“Every student and parent is going to create their own plan,” Gordon said. The summer school is customizable and free.

There are three portions of the experience: Finish, Enrich and Engage.

The ‘Finish’ portion of the day focuses on completing work disrupted by the pandemic.

“Let's finish the learning that you didn't have a chance to do during the school year or maybe you're finished learning is really pushing you beyond if you were an accelerated student,” said Maria Carlson, the executive director of academic planning and implementation.

Carlson said for younger students the ‘Finish’ portion focuses on assessing what they need to work on and meeting students where they are in their learning and for high school students, it will focus on completing credits they did not in the school year or providing opportunities for flex credits.

The ‘Enrich’ portion is project-based learning that allows students to choose a subject of interest to them and hone in on critical thinking skills.

“When I was in school, I would always ask, like, why are we learning this? It's so disconnected to things that I cared about or things that were important to me,” she said.

The students can choose to focus on the arts, humanities, STEM, or ‘The Land.’

“These project-based learning experiences allow our students the opportunity to both engage with those academic content standards and simultaneously work on the skills that we know students need to be successful throughout high school and beyond,” said Carlson.

She said ‘Enrich’ is a piece of the puzzle leaders think typical education is lacking.

“It deals with our students in their neighborhoods, the things that they encounter day to day in their lives by having them examine those things that are important to them,” she said.

Lastly, ‘Engage’ where students can participate in outdoor activities with camps, sports, the Boys & Girls Clubs, Cleveland Playhouse, and other community partners.

At its core, summer school is a chance to make up for learning that was lost, but Gordon calls ‘CMSD’s Summer Learning Experience’ a chance to reimagine how students learn.

“My hope is that we reengage that we demonstrate through our summer learning experience that our schools can be great places, that kids can have fun while learning, and that this is a prototype of what's to come,” he said.

Already 6,000 students have enrolled, Gordon said that’s more than in past years. You can still enroll in both sessions to do that head here.