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How summer learning can save education


Aaron Dworkin, Chief Executive Officer of the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), discusses solutions to pandemic learning loss, teacher burnout, equity issues, and more

As the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) sets up to celebrate its 30-year anniversary next week in Washington DC during its annual Summer Learning Summit (sorry, sold out!), I had a chance to catch up with their CEO Aaron Dworkin, on what post-pandemic learning means from his perspective and how districts can solve a variety of current-day challenges with flexibility, communication, and inspiration. 

He emphasizes the importance of making summer learning feel different from the regular school experience, combining academic enrichment with experiential and fun activities. He highlights successful initiatives, such as the Camp School Partnership Project and Teachers in the Park, as examples of effective, low-cost approaches to preventing learning loss and ensuring a positive start to the school year. Looking forward, Aaron envisions the continued growth of quality summer programs for all low-income students across the United States through collaborative efforts and increased accountability. In 20 minutes, we run the gamut! Have a listen.

Key Takeaways:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a national focus on addressing learning loss, making summer learning a priority for all kids.
  • NSLA emphasizes the importance of partnerships between school districts, nonprofits, and government agencies to create effective summer learning opportunities. 
  • Aaron advocates rebranding summer learning to combine the best elements of academic and experiential learning, making it more engaging and appealing to students.
  • The goal is to ensure every low-income child in the United States has access to a quality summer program that promotes both academic growth and personal development.
  • Accountability is crucial, and Aaron envisions a unified effort to track the number of students benefiting from summer programs and expanding these initiatives across the country.

More about Aaron:

At NSLA, he leads a team supporting a wide array of 20,000+ education and youth development leaders and organizations. Prior to NSLA, Aaron served as President of the After-School All-Stars National Network, a non-profit organization providing free afterschool and summer programs to 90,000 low-income students in more than 450 Title I schools in 20 major cities across the U.S.

In addition, he previously founded and directed Hoops & Leaders, an award-winning, grassroots youth mentoring and leadership program in New York City. He is a graduate of Tufts University and holds an EdM from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and an MPA from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He is member of the national board of the American Camp Association and an alum of the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs, Shusterman Foundation Leadership Fellowship and 2019 Class of Leadership Greater Washington. He resides in the Washington DC area with his wife Lauren and two children.

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