Hoping to stave learning loss, some districts allow students to retain devices over summer

Dive Brief:

  • Some districts are allowing students to keep laptops or other school-issued devices over the summer for continuous learning, District Administration reports, noting students having devices in hand at the launch of the academic year will also make it easier to start school remotely if necessary.
  • Seattle Public Schools is collecting ed tech tools, such as laptops, from graduating seniors, but is allowing the rest of its students to hang on to loaned technology until the end of the next school year. Administrators are planning on between 20,000 and 30,000 students taking part in remote summer school classes. 
  • California’s Stockton Unified School District is collecting Chromebooks from seniors and 8th-graders, but the remainder of students will keep possession of devices to participate in summer learning. While the district is concerned about losses, it purchased Destiny Resource Manager software to help track borrowed Chromebooks.

Dive Insight:

Prior to the pandemic, some districts were already allowing students to hang onto school-issued devices over the summer in hopes of staving off the “summer slide.” Devices not only assist students during summer school, they let them apply for scholarships and college. Stakeholders think of device lending in the summer as one piece of the equity puzzle that helps even out the educational playing field.

This year, the summer learning slide is expected to widen the learning gap after extended school closures. New research predicts differences in at-home learning will drive students’ grasp of concepts further apart, as some parents will be better positioned than others to actively homeschool their children.

Los Angeles Unified School District was only recently able to supply about 96% of students with a laptop device. When schools initially closed in March, up to a third of the district’s students lacked both a computer and home internet access. A $100 million initiative to secure those two assets finally solved the problem, but not until mid-May. Though the district started looking for the devices in March, supply chain glitches and high demand created delays.

Seattle Public Schools did secure laptops for its students, but it initially resisted transitioning to online learning. After schools closed in late March, Superintendent Denise Juneau tweeted that SPS would not transition to remote learning because some students lack internet access and remote teaching is a specialized approach. In early April, Amazon donated 8,200 laptops to SPS students.

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