Understanding the Importance of Summer Learning in a Pandemic
This study seeks to better understand the role of individualized, virtual summer instruction in redressing learning losses resulting from the COVID-19 school closures. In particular, we are interested in the potential for virtual learning to combat the negative effects of time out of school on achievement gaps. Given the mixed evidence on virtual learning platforms, especially for disadvantaged populations, the prospect of repeated school closures in the upcoming school year points to an urgent need to identify optimal strategies for online education. Our research design is based on a randomized-control trial evaluation of a unique summer program in NYC which will be offered free of charge to public school students in grades 3-8. All study students will have access to the virtual study materials, and treatment group students will additionally receive synchronous virtual instruction and comprehensive supports. By comparing Fall 2020 administrative test scores for the two experimental arms, we will identify the impact of personalized teacher interaction in a virtual setting on student learning. Online assessments from the first week of virtual programming will provide a baseline description of students’ skill levels following a shortened school year.