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Summer learning programs

Health Factors: Education
Decision Makers: Educators Nonprofit Leaders
Evidence Rating: Scientifically Supported
Population Reach: 10-19% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: Likely to decrease disparities

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Description

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). 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased academic achievement

Evidence of Effectiveness

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).

Implementation

United States

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).

Wisconsin

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). 

Implementation Resources

Bell 2007* - Bell SR, Carrillo N. Characteristics of effective summer learning programs in practice. New Directions for Youth Development. 2007;2007(114):45-63. Accessed on November 25, 2015
IES WWC-Beckett 2009 - Beckett M, Borman G, Capizzano J, et al. Structuring out-of-school time to improve academic achievement. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), Institute of Education Sciences (IES), US Department of Education (US ED); NCEE 2009-012 Accessed on February 17, 2016
NCSL-Summer - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Summer learning programs. Accessed on January 14, 2016
NSLA - National Summer Learning Association (NSLA). Together we can ensure that every child is safe, healthy, and engaged in learning during the summer. Accessed on May 19, 2016
RAND-McCombs 2011 - McCombs JS, Augustine CH, Schwartz HL, et al. Making summer count: How summer programs can boost children's learning. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2011: Monograph Report 1120. Accessed on May 24, 2016
US ED-21st Century CLC - US Department of Education (US ED). 21st Century community learning centers (CLC). Accessed on March 3, 2017

Citations - Description

RAND-McCombs 2011 - McCombs JS, Augustine CH, Schwartz HL, et al. Making summer count: How summer programs can boost children's learning. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2011: Monograph Report 1120. Accessed on May 24, 2016

Citations - Evidence

Cooper 2000* - Cooper H, Charlton K, Valentine JC, Muhlenbruck L. Making the most of summer school: A meta-analytic and narrative review. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development. 2000;65(1):1-127. Accessed on December 14, 2015
IES WWC-Beckett 2009 - Beckett M, Borman G, Capizzano J, et al. Structuring out-of-school time to improve academic achievement. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), Institute of Education Sciences (IES), US Department of Education (US ED); NCEE 2009-012 Accessed on February 17, 2016
Kim 2013* - Kim JS, Quinn DM. The effects of summer reading on low-income children's literacy achievement from kindergarten to grade 8: A meta-analysis of classroom and home interventions. Review of Educational Research. 2013;83(3):386-431. Accessed on March 2, 2016
Lauer 2006* - Lauer PA, Akiba M, Wilkerson SB, et al. Out-of-school-time programs: A meta-analysis of effects for at-risk students. Review of Educational Research. 2006;76(2):275-313. Accessed on March 14, 2016
RAND-Augustine 2013 - Augustine CH, McCombs JS, Schwartz HL, Zakaras L. Getting to work on summer learning: Recommended practices for success. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2013. Accessed on March 2, 2016
RAND-McCombs 2011 - McCombs JS, Augustine CH, Schwartz HL, et al. Making summer count: How summer programs can boost children's learning. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2011: Monograph Report 1120. Accessed on May 24, 2016

Citations - Implementation

ASA-America - Afterschool Alliance (ASA). America After 3PM special report on summer: Missed opportunities, unmet demands. Accessed on December 1, 2015
NSLA-Award - National Summer Learning Association (NSLA). Excellence in summer learning award finalists and winners. Accessed on March 2, 2016
WI DPI-Summer - Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Summer school information. Accessed on November 9, 2015

Page Last Updated

June 29, 2015

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