|Decision Makers:||Educators Nonprofit Leaders|
|Population Reach:||10-19% of WI's population|
|Impact on Disparities:|
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Summer learning programs provide academic instruction to students during the summer, often along with enrichment activities such as art or outdoor activities. Programs can be offered by school districts, national, or local providers, and typically operate four or five days per week for four to eight weeks. Programs can also facilitate home-based reading, often with teacher-selected books and encouragement. Some programs focus on low-performing students while others serve all students. On average, students who do not participate in summer learning programs lose about a month of academic gains during the summer. Disadvantaged students generally have greater levels of summer learning loss than their more advantaged peers, especially in reading (RAND-McCombs 2011).
There is strong evidence that summer learning programs improve participants’ reading (Kim 2013, Lauer 2006, Cooper 2000) and math outcomes (Lauer 2006, Cooper 2000), although some programs are more effective than others (RAND-McCombs 2011).
Overall, mandatory programs focused on remedial learning, voluntary programs supporting accelerated learning (RAND-McCombs 2011, Cooper 2000), and non-classroom-based reading-at-home programs (RAND-McCombs 2011, Kim 2013) have been shown to increase student achievement. Some studies find larger effects for students from middle income families than students whose families have lower incomes (Cooper 2000); other studies show the greatest literacy benefits among children from low income families (Kim 2013).
Consistent program attendance is associated with improved student outcomes. Actively recruiting students and offering engaging material (RAND-Augustine 2013, RAND-McCombs 2011, IES WWC-Beckett 2009) and extracurricular enrichment along with academics can support consistent attendance (RAND-Augustine 2013, RAND-McCombs 2011, IES WWC-Beckett 2009, Cooper 2000). Smaller classes or individualized instruction appear to yield stronger effects than larger classes (RAND-Augustine 2013, RAND-McCombs 2011, Cooper 2000), especially in reading (Lauer 2006). Programs with a longer duration appear to have greater effects than shorter programs, although those with very high durations (e.g., more than 100 hours for math and 210 hours for reading) appear less effective (IES WWC-Beckett 2009, Lauer 2006, Cooper 2000).
Researchers and implementers of successful programs also recommend early and thorough planning by qualified staff; hiring qualified teachers, especially those with grade level and subject-matter experience; focused efforts to maximize academic time on task (RAND-Augustine 2013); and recruiting students well before the start of the summer program (RAND-Augustine 2013, RAND-McCombs 2011, Cooper 2000). Regular program assessment and improvement efforts can also strengthen effects (IES WWC-Beckett 2009, RAND-McCombs 2011).
Large-scale programs that primarily serve disadvantaged students have been shown to cost $7 to $19 per student per hour, typically less than regular school-year instruction. Staff salaries comprise most of this cost. Summer learning programs of all types can be supported by federal grants, state funds, philanthropic gifts, and parental fees (RAND-McCombs 2011).
In 2009, 25% of American schoolchildren participated in summer learning programs. Almost half (43%) of participants qualified for free or reduced price lunch in this time period, and black and Hispanic students were more likely to participate in summer learning programs than white students (ASA-America).
The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) recognizes leading summer programs or models through its annual Excellence in Summer Learning Award; finalist and winning communities are located throughout the country (NSLA-Award).
In 2009, 31% of Wisconsinite children participated in summer learning programs (ASA-America). Wisconsin school districts may receive state aid for instruction related or similar to academic instruction during the school year (WI DPI-Summer).
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