From COVID-19 School Closures to Horizons at Home

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When schools began to close in response to the COVID-19 crisis this spring, it was difficult to predict what the future would hold for Horizons. How long would school doors be closed? What would the remainder of the school year look like for Horizons students and families? How much learning loss were Horizons students experiencing? What basic needs were going unmet?

Horizons programs across the country connected with their families right away and many made quick adjustments to provide meals, help with remote learning technology, and virtual tutoring sessions to help students with schoolwork. As it became clear that Horizons' six-week, in-person summer programming would have to be very different in 2020, our Network leaders came together to consider the best ways to engage students remotely while still maintaining the strong community that makes Horizons so special.

According to a recent study from the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, students are likely to return to school in fall 2020 with 63-68% of the learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year – and with only 37-50% of the learning gains in math. In some grades, students may return to school close to a full year behind in math. What’s more, this “lost ground” will not be equally distributed – while students already performing above grade level might make potential gains, students performing at or below grade-level are more likely to experience many months’ worth of learning loss.

With many students facing a semester's worth of learning loss, and with unequal access to school-year distance learning, it was imperative that Horizons find a way to provide students the best possible opportunities to learn in Summer 2020. And Horizons leaders stepped up, surveying families to understand their remote learning experiences, leveraging community partnerships for meal services and supplies, and training teachers to deliver Horizons programming in new ways.

The result? This summer, Horizons' 65 sites are offering uniquely creative, one-of-a-kind summer experiences to over 6,000 students nationwide. With at-home, hands-on projects blended with online classrooms, Horizons students are engaged in building their literacy, STEM, and social-emotional skills -- and enjoying special activities like art, dance, guitar, cooking, and mindfulness. Horizons affiliates are keeping in close touch with families, partners, and funders through meal delivery, weekly newsletters, and videos of the week's online learning, and are finding thoughtful ways to bring their communities together safely. What's more, Horizons students are enjoying their virtual summer, with some even commenting, "this is the best!"

In the summer of 2020, Horizons continues to do what we have always done: provide the high-quality, whole-child-centered learning opportunities that every child needs. Thanks to the flexibility of the Horizons model, the long-term commitment to Horizons students and families, and the dedication, creativity, and tireless energy of the Horizons Network staff, #HorizonsAtHome2020 is in full swing.

A Deeper Dive:

Another brief, prepared by the Collaborative for Student Growth, uses typical summer learning loss to predict the potential impact of COVID-19 school closures on academic achievement. Their analysis suggests students will return in fall 2020 with roughly 70% of the learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year. The brief also predicts that in mathematics, students are likely to return with less than 50% of typical learning gains and in some grades, students may fall nearly a full year behind what would normally occur.


 Annenberg Institute study 

 NWEA Collaborative for Student Growth brief