You are here


Early Learners

COVID-19 has shifted the world as we know it. It has affected all aspects of our lives, challenged our emotions and made us question what we thought we once knew. Due to the critical nature of needing to focus on global health and safety, we have had limited capacity to think beyond “how” life has changed, especially as it relates to our environments and daily interactions with others. Due to this, we may have inadvertently overlooked our foundational early childhood knowledge and the crucial role it plays as we plan for educational and learning opportunities for our youngest children. Instead of having this at the forefront of our planning, it has become overshadowed by terms like “virtual learning” and “physically distancing”, and “loss of learning”, which for some, has instilled feelings of panic, concern and frustration.

What needs to be highlighted is the “how” young children learn and “how” this can be a focus for support during the summer as well as throughout the school year. Although we are with a pandemic, the research is clear. Children learn through meaningful engagement with others and their environments and through the implementation of Developmentally Appropriate Practices (DAP). DAP is woven into the values and practices that are core to how DPI believes educators should approach learning for young children and it is foundational to the WI Model Early Learning Standards and its guiding principles.

As planning for summer learning begins, it is vital that DAP and the WI Model Learning Standards guiding principles are at the forefront of decision-making related to how school districts support young children and families prepare them for entry into 4K or K programming.

WI Model Early Learning Standards Guiding Principles


  • All children are capable and competent.
  • Early relationships matter.
  • A child’s early learning and development is multidimensional.
  • Expectations for children must be guided by knowledge of child growth and development.
  • Children are individuals who develop at various rates.
  • Children are members of cultural groups 

    that share developmental patterns.

  • Children exhibit a range of skills and competencies within any domain of development.

  • Children learn through play and the active exploration of their environment.

  • Parents are children’s primary and most important caregivers and educators

icon of toolsResources and Contacts

Multilingual Learners

Summer school provides a great opportunity for targeted support for Multilingual Learners. Whether this is a time that can be packed with a focus on language development, academic standards, or even the fun learning found in field-trip experiences, well-designed summer school initiatives can have a lasting impact and provide Multilingual Learners with meaningful and engaging learning opportunities. Summer school is an opportune time in making connections across the content areas by employing thematic approaches across disciplines and utilizing project-based learning to leverage the use of language learning with content knowledge. Learning experiences should foster student choice and interests, opportunities for collaborative work and hands-on experiences that sparks their intrinsic motivation to learn.

Depending on the varying levels of English proficiency within the multilingual families that you serve, some Multilingual Learners may be returning to an entire summer of limited English spoken in the home. Some students may have limited contact with English-speaking friends. Teachers need to understand the linguistic abilities of their students and work to provide differentiated instruction to meet the individual needs of students. Multilingual Learners need the opportunity to practice, observe, and play with language with peers, family and friends in and outside of school. Consider providing language learning extensions that students and their families can easily employ within their home and community environment. Collaboration among English learner educators and content area teachers on how best to provide language support and language development through creating lesson plans, co-teaching, sharing of resources and communicating with families are essential.

Engaging Multilingual Families in Summer School

When engaging multilingual learner families, many will need additional supports when navigating the complexities of the US school structure. It is important to be intentional when beginning the summer school process (ie..creating courses, summer school handbooks, understanding the summer school enrollment process...) that multilingual families have equitable access to the same information that is called to the attention of all families in a timely enough manner to not be limited in the courses they can select, but be engaged in the selection process. Multilingual Learners should be prioritized to participate in enrichment classes that foster interaction through hands-on, as well as, authentic language experiences as MLs benefit from interactive, contextualized word play that allows for the mastery of social (BICS) and academic vocabulary (CALP).

Guiding Questions for planning for multilingual learners


  • How do you foster a growth mindset that centers multilingual students in an assets-based approach that promotes enrichment and not exclusively remediation?
  • How are you using culturally and linguistically responsive instructional practices while ensuring social-emotional supports are in place to create a culture of connectedness?
  • How are you cultivating the well-being of Multilingual Learners that allows for a healthy balance between school and home?
  • How are you deliberate in assuring that multilingual families have access to summer school information in a timely manner, especially when summer school course offerings are sometimes competitive in the number of sections offered?
  • How do you create and sustain a welcoming, inclusive environment for multilingual families that encompasses meaningful communication, parental participation and parental voice in the decision-making process?
  • How can you build upon what students know and enrich their skills with authentic and engaging experiences that allow for multiple opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction, student-to-teacher interaction and to demonstrate content knowledge in various ways?
  • How are you collaborating with your EL staff in summer planning, teaching or co-teaching, family engagement or the provision of professional development opportunities for classroom/ content teachers and administrators to best support Multilingual Learners?
  • How do you incorporate the use of the English Language Development Standards in your academic summer school courses and curriculum to support Multilingual Learners growth towards language proficiency?
  • How can you use summer school as an opportunity for Multilingual Learners to provide additional services for language development or academic content?
  • How can you maximize opportunities for both native and English language development within and outside the school environment?


icon of toolsResources and Contacts

Students with Disabilities

Additional Services

Additional services may be provided during summer months by appropriately licensed staff in accordance with the IEP at no cost to the families. Additional services are special education and related services needed by individual students with disabilities who had significant regression of academic or functional skills due to the statewide emergency order closing school buildings beginning in March 2020. Within the first six months of the 2020-21 school year, LEAs were required to determine on an individual basis whether and to what extent additional services are required to mitigate the impact of the extended school closure on a student’s progress. In determining whether additional services are required, a student’s IEP team must consider the actual impact on the student’s ability to retain skills and make progress toward their IEPs goals and in the general education curriculum. If a student’s IEP team determines additional services are needed by a student, the frequency, amount, duration and location of the additional special education services are documented in the program summary of a student’s IEP. For more information, refer to Information Update Bulletin 20.01 Additional Services due to Extended School Closures. Education Stabilization Funds may be used to provide additional services.

Compensatory Education

Compensatory services may be provided during summer months by appropriately licensed staff in accordance with the IEP at no cost to the families. Compensatory education is special education and related services typically required as a result of an LEA’s failure to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to a student with a disability. By the start of the 2020-21 school year, the statewide emergency school closure order was lifted; however, some LEAs were not able to provide special education or related services to students who required in-person services in order to receive FAPE. Some LEAs may have provided virtual services but they were ineffective in allowing a student to make sufficient progress towards their IEP goals and in the general education curriculum. In some cases, eligibility for special education was delayed because evaluations were not completed. In each of these examples, LEAs must determine on an individual basis if compensatory education is needed for the affected student(s). Compensatory education should be clearly labeled and documented in the program summary of a student’s IEP. For more information, refer to COVID-19 Special Education Question and Answer Document. Education Stabilization Funds may be used to provide COVID-related compensatory services.

Extended School Year (ESY)

Extended School Year (ESY) services are required special education and related services provided beyond the limits of the school term, in accordance with the student's IEP, and at no cost to the families. A school district is required to provide ESY services to a student when the student requires such services to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The student's IEP team must consider, as appropriate, whether a student needs ESY services in order to receive FAPE. In determining eligibility for ESY services, the IEP team generally considers regression during an interruption in services and recoupment of skills after services resume. ESY is a predictive analysis based on how the student has fared in the past during periods of breaks in instructional time. If a break in services during the summer months is a concern based on past performance, the IEP team uses data collected before and after a previous break in services to help determine if a student is likely to experience significant loss of skills during the up-coming summer break and difficulty recovering skills when school resumes. ESY special education and related services are provided by appropriately licensed staff. For more information, refer to Information Update Bulletin 10.02, Extended School Year (ESY): Extended School Year (ESY) Services for Children with Disabilities

Permissive Summer School

Unlike ESY services, summer school activities are not part of a student’s IEP or required in order to provide FAPE. Students with disabilities, however, must be provided the same opportunities as all other students to participate in summer school programs. Districts must provide reasonable accommodations to give students with disabilities access to summer programs unless those accommodations would fundamentally alter the nature of the summer programs. These accommodations may be documented in a Section 504 plan, if appropriate.

Guiding questions for planning

  • How will you determine which students with disabilities need and receive additional services?
  • How will you determine which students with disabilities need and receive compensatory education?
  • How will you notify families and district staff members that students with disabilities have equal access to summer school programs?
  • How will you ensure nondiscrimination protections are in place for students with disabilities to participate in summer school?
  • For students receiving services through ESY, does the IEP contain a contingency plan to allow for a shift in learning environments (e.g.: In-person to virtual) due to staff or student quarantine, or school closure due to COVID-19?
  • If a student is only able to participate in ESY virtually, how will the IEP team implement the IEP as currently written and monitor progress towards the annual IEP goals?
  • What steps will be taken to ensure summer school staff have the skills to provide necessary services to ensure students with disabilities have access to summer programming?
  • How will staff be informed of the accommodations needed for students with disabilities?
  • How will staff document the provision of accommodations to students with disabilities?
  • For students who cannot access online materials or have difficulty accessing synchronous opportunities, how will you ensure equitable access to materials and instruction?
  • How will lessons be delivered for students with 504 plans or IEPs? How will teachers and support staff provide supports for these learners and their families?
  • How will you maintain communication with students experiencing homelessness or home instability to support those students in accessing instructional materials, transportation, meal options, and other essential needs for summer learning?
  • How will you maintain communication with multilingual learners, their families, and their communities? How will teachers and support staff provide language supports for summer learning activities?


icon of toolsResources

Students with Gifts and Talents

COVID-19 has created both opportunities and obstacles for educating high-ability/high-potential and gifted/talented students. Summer school can be useful in helping these students find new challenges that can help them grow as learners, pursue their interests, and explore potential career options.

As shown below, there are a variety of different summer school approaches to help these students learn and grow. Some of these strategies are useful in preparing for the upcoming school year and others are useful to help keep these students engaged and challenged.

  • Consider how to build into summer school offerings the 3 “E’s” of Classroom Enrichment, Classroom Extensions, and Classroom Enhancements. Classroom enrichment is about “focusing on a specific component of a topic” (Heacox & Cash, 2014, p. 48). Classroom extensions are about “tak[ing] the topic and expand[ing] it to the larger discipline” (ibid). Classroom enhancements are used to interrelate the topic by “tak[ing] the concept embedded with the unit of study and expand[ing] it” (ibid).
  • Consider focusing on the gifted domains of creativity and leadership. There are new resources that can be used in a variety of different ways to help students build skills in these areas - see two new infographics related to Creativity and Leadership at These are shown under the Resources for Students, Educators, Caregivers & Families section.
  • Use the summer school experience to try out new approaches that may help in better understanding a student’s interests by giving the student choice and voice, and, ultimately, by employing new curricula or teaching methods to see how to best meet the needs of this student going forward.
  • If gifted identification approaches have been delayed, when possible conduct any suggested identification processes for high-ability/high-potential students so grouping and subject-based or grade-based acceleration decisions can be made prior to the start of the new school year..
  • Revisit students’ differentiated education or advanced learning plan (when they exist) in partnership with teachers and families to reflect each student’s evolving needs.

icon of toolsResources