Last Updated on August 21, 2022 by BVN

Austin Gage | California Black Media 

As students and parents contemplate how best to be prepared for school after the summer break, engaging in summer education offers a way to recover from the trauma and learning loss caused by the pandemic. To address this important issue, the U.S. Department of Education held a virtual roundtable on July 27 titled “Summer F.U.N. for Black Students: Families Understanding and Nurturing Learning at Home”. 

Hosted by Alexis Holmes, the policy manager at the National Education Association, the virtual panel focused on how Black families can support and provide rich summer learning experiences for their children.

The roundtable participants included Dr. Rosiline Floyd, chief of staff at Normandy Schools Collaborative; Kier Gaines, licensed therapist and job placement specialist at District of Columbia Public Schools; Frances Frost, education advocate and the first family ambassador at the Department of Education; and Josh Davis, vice president of policy and partnerships at StriveTogether.

The panel stressed that engagement of Black students during the summer is valuable to academic success in the fall and in the future. 

“We appreciate you taking the time to be here today to talk about something so important, and that is making sure that our students continue to have the out-of-school/summer experiences that they need to support them and to get them ready for a very successful and rich fall and back to school season,” Holmes said.

The panel insisted that Black families must provide support to their children due to its lasting impact on their educational future. Floyd and Davis said because Black and other marginalized students face steeper challenges in their journeys for higher education, these obstacles must be dealt with efficiently and effectively.

“I started out as an engineer at Purdue, and I noticed that students of color didn’t have the resources that I had to make it to a Division I university, so I started researching why and a lot of what I found was the education level that they were getting in school. They changed the standards to get into universities, but schools didn’t even offer some of the classes that students needed to be able to enroll in universities,” said Floyd. 

When asked to identify resources and what they can mean to Black communities, Davis said “When I think about resources, it is the non-financial but oftentimes more important social and political capital that Black families and children do not have with equitable or equal access to those things other communities have that allow them to thrive.”

Understanding the obstacles standing in the way of Black students’ academic potential success was the first step the panelists explored. They then discussed strategies to academically engage the students during the summer. 

“Try to find that sweet spot in between what some of the children are naturally good at and what they like to do, help them understand that those two things sometimes are two completely different things and then just allow an exploratory nature in introducing them to different options that they might not have had otherwise. Putting kids in the driver’s seat seems to be a really remarkable strategy,” Gaines said. 

Regarding specific teaching strategies, Gaines said it is important for teachers to find ways to integrate social media and technology into what they are already doing and to allow time for breaks. 

Frost shared a specific strategy of her own regarding making a summer education system effective. “Make sure that your program is a welcoming environment. That’s one of the standards that we have as National PTA [National Parent Teacher Association]. It is summertime, they have been in school for 180 days, they want to do everything but be in school so make it something that they want to come to and things they want to learn,” said Frost.

The main message the roundtable panelists conveyed to the audience was Black families supporting their children was key to academic success.  

“Our research shows that children who have parents who are engaged are more likely to show up to school, they are more likely to graduate, they are more likely to be successful in school because you are encouraging your child, you are in contact with their teacher, you understand what’s going on,” Frost said.