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Which Students Went to Summer School This Year? Maybe Not The Ones Who Needed It Most

Keaau Elementary

About 18,000 Hawaii students attended this year’s public summer school. The programs were to especially help students who were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

However, it’s not clear what percent of those students were actually served because the schools didn’t collect data on the total number of disporportionately impacted children.


The state Board of Education defined students who were disproportionately impacted as juniors and seniors needing credits to graduate or advance to the next grade level.


Others in this group include special education students and those at risk of not advancing, but the state Department of Education didn’t keep an official count of these students.


Board of Education members like Kenneth Uyemura were not happy with the lack of data on summer school students.


“I'm disappointed because I couldn't see the results of summer school,” he said. “I couldn't see the relationship of the money that we spent on summer school, and what impact it had on our students.”


However He’e, a coalition of education advocates, created its own analysis based on data released by the DOE.

He‘e Director Cheri Nakamura came up with her own estimate of disproportionately impacted students and says they number about 53,000 students. Among them are English learners, special education students and those who are economically disadvantaged.


She said only about 10,000 of them -- or 20 percent -- attended summer school.

“Maybe next time, because there's going to be students falling behind this year, because of the circumstances, we need to do a better job at identifying these students right now,” she said. “Thinking about summer school right now, targeting these students, tracking them, making sure that the outreach is there planned, so that more of them will take advantage of next year's summer school.”

According to the summer school weekly reports published by the DOE, between the three main summer school programs: school-based, official summer school and credit recovery -- only about 57% of the students were disproportionately impacted.

Among the three main programs the school-based model served on average the highest percentage of disproportionately impacted students, about 76%. However, the official summer school and credit recovery programs on average served a majority of non-disproportionately impacted students.

Only 12% of those who attended official summer school were disproportionately impacted.

The other three summer school programs, e-school, statewide credit acceleration and continuity of learning websites did not provide breakdowns of the number of disproportionately impacted students they served.

Nakamura also noted disparities between the reported progress of students in three regular summer programs and three others added specifically for disproportionately impacted students.

“This metric called progress, and for e-school and official summer school and credit recovery, a lot of it was like 90% across the weeks,” she said.

“But then when you look at the summer learning opportunities, the ones targeting the disproportionately impacted students, the progress was all over the place like 50%, 30%. It wasn't stellar, like 90%.”

DOE reported spending about $5.5 million of its $43 million federal CARES Act fund specifically for summer school.

School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said it will take time to understand if summer school helped stem learning losses.

She also noted that the department’s budget will be tight to set up next year’s summer program.

“We'll be going into a very difficult next legislative session with some key areas where we've already taken tremendous hits financially, $100 million already cut from our budget. That's part of the permanent budget moving forward and other proposed cuts being presented,” she said.


“The fixed budget that we're working on this year does not necessarily provide the additional funds that schools or the state would need for a comprehensive summer program. This year we had the benefit of federal dollars.”

Meanwhile, students are still distance learning, and schools continue to debate whether they should have in-person classes in November.


Ashley Mizuo is the government reporter for Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at amizuo@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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