Summer Programs, Hands-On Experience Critical to Combat Learning Loss

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Dallas top educators have a message for parents – enroll your kids in summer programs.

The nonprofit Big Thought brought together education leaders on Tuesday for a discussion on summer programs and how to combat learning loss nearly two years into the pandemic.

“If we’re going to bounce back from learning loss this upcoming summer it's going to be crucial,” said Big Thought President and CEO Byron Sanders.

The presentation included data collected by the Dallas City of Learning, a city-wide initiative that provides high-quality and free summer and out-of-school programs. Nearly 18,000 students participated in the programs in 2021.  

Data presented showed students who participated in their programs the last two years outperformed their peers.

“We’ve actually seen it is possible to stunt the summer slide,” Sanders said.

Sanders said if we are going to help DISD students recover from learning loss we need to ensure they have access to in-person programs this summer.

“Not only can experiences in the summer bridge the learning gap they can start building 21st-century skill sets,” Sanders said. “Those things that don’t often show up on the transcript but we know are really important like critical thinking, problem-solving and understanding the digital world.”

The program included a conversation between Dallas Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa and the chief innovation officer for the U.S. Department of Labor Chike Aguh.

Hinojosa talked about how hands-on experiences can help close the opportunity gap many DISD students face.

He pointed to an initiative with American Airlines and Dallas College that puts DISD students on the path to a career in aviation.

Aguh said those types of partnerships are needed to strengthen America’s future workforce.

“Getting that when you’re 18 versus when you’re 30 or 35 that’s a huge difference,” said Aguh. “And that’s a really important part of how we prepare people. It’s not just sitting in the classroom.”

Sanders said the takeaway for parents and caregivers – enroll your children in summer and out-of-school programs now to combat learning loss and strengthen a child’s social and emotional health.

And to the business community, he encourages them to buy in and see what experiences they can provide Dallas students.

“We’re looking for partners to really lean in with us, young people need to be on your campuses, connecting at the places of employment where you are,” Sanders said. “Work with Big Thought so we can build these really intentional connections along a young person’s pathway.”

To see the programs offered by Dallas City of Learning, visit here.

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