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Summer learning loss affects all students, but disproportionally impacts low-income students, which leads to an ever-widening achievement gap. In order to combat this "Summer Slide" that occurs when children remain idle and are stripped of engaging opportunities during the summer, Out-of-School Time (OST) programs can operate throughout the summer. There are endless types of programs that can be offered to engage children and youth in the arts, the sciences, and other kinds of experiential learning. Your United Way help develop and grow programs that are accessible to all youth throughout the summer months.

RUNNING AN EFFECTIVE summer PROGRAM

Funding Resource Guide and Action Toolkit (2016)
In collaboration with the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and Civic Nation, the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) has released a new guide to assist state and local leaders in identifying the funding streams with the most promising opportunities to support summer learning. The guide explores how states, districts, and communities have innovated to blend public and private funding to meet the needs of kids during the summer.

First Outcomes From The National Summer Learning Study (2015)
RAND Education and The Wallace Foundation are in the process of publishing a series of five reports over five years as part of their “Summer Learning District Demonstration Project.” Launched in 2011, the overarching study examines the effectiveness of large-scale, district-run voluntary summer learning programs that serve low-income elementary students. This link to a four-page brief gives an overview of the current findings published in the first two reports (both of which are linked to below) and the early outcomes of these studies, as well as a look at next steps.

Summer Starts in September: Comprehensive Planning Guide for Summer Learning Programs (2015)
This resource from the National Summer Learning Association costs a fee to receive. It includes 200 pages of research-based strategies, tools for summer program leaders, staff, and trainers to use to develop a program, and program examples. This guide provides helpful, detailed advice for developing an effective summer learning program.

Summer Learning: Accelerating Student Success (2015)
The National Association of State Boards of Education released this report as a look into ways that state officials and local programs can improve the summer learning landscape and support youth development. It provides specific strategies for programs to use to offer quality professional development opportunities, to strengthen and expand partnerships, and to revise the transitional summer school model. Additionally, it highlights examples of successful programs.

Getting to Work on Summer Learning: Recommended Practices for Success (2013)
This report is the first to be published with The Wallace Foundation’s five-year demonstration project. It is mainly targeted toward school district leaders who want to establish a new summer learning program. The suggestions it provides and case study examples it gives could be useful for your United Way to give to coalition members or partner agencies who are looking to strengthen summer learning programs. Your United Way could also encourage organizations to use it as a jumping-off point for launching a new summer program in your community.

Best Practices in Summer Learning Programs for Middle and High School Youth (2012)
This report from the National Summer Learning Association describes summer program practices that are most likely to help older youth achieve positive outcomes. The findings this report is based on are part of a two-year project to improve summer learning program quality, specifically for programs that target middle and high school youth who are at-risk of summer learning loss. 14 summer program providers in San Francisco and Washington D.C. collaborated with the NSLA for this project. The report describes the findings from the project and also shares program examples.

Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children’s Learning (2011)
This report from the Wallace Foundation shares suggestions for summer learning program providers on ways to overcome barriers to youth engagement in summer programs and methods of finding funding sources. It shares data from ongoing programs and reviews relevant literature as a means of demonstrating the potential benefit of summer programs both to providers and to potential funders and policy makers.

Characteristics of Effective Summer Learning Programs in Practice (2005)
Based on observation of various summer programs, this research report suggests that high quality summer programs that effectively support student academic growth and youth development share nine characteristics. These characteristics, listed below, focus on a program's approach to learning and infrastructure: intentional focus on supporting learning, firm commitment to youth development, proactive approach to summer learning, strong leadership, collaborative planning, opportunities for staff development, strategic partnerships, commitment to rigorous evaluation and improvement, and a focus on sustainability.

Community Indicators of Effective Summer Learning Systems
This quick reference guide breaks down effective summer learning programs into six different indicators, as follows: 1) Shared vision and city-wide coordination, 2) Engaged leadership, 3) Data management system, 4) Continuous quality improvement, 5) Sustainable resources, and 6) Marketing and communications. For each indicator, it gives specific targets that summer programs should work to meet in order to be as effective as possible.

 

program EXAMPLES

An Analysis of the Effects of an Academic Summer Program for Middle School Students (2015)
This study—published by RAND and funded by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation’s Social Innovation Fund (SIF)—examines the effectiveness of three summer learning programs run by BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), all of which are exclusively for middle school students. As part of its case study, it found that the middle school students (most of whom were low-performing and low-income) attended regularly, despite the lack of an attendance requirement. It concludes that the program’s models were effective, which could be useful to organizations attempting to create their own summer programs, and it discusses some difficulties encountered throughout the study.

Accelerating Achievement Through Summer Learning (2015)
The National Summer Learning Association published this report as a resource for education leaders, policymakers, program providers, and funders who are considering expanding and strengthening summer learning programs or who are debating whether or not to invest this time and money. The report includes 13 case studies of diverse models of summer programs and provides a glance into key research and policy around supportive and effective summer learning practices. The content it provides is relevant to many types of programs. To access the Executive Summary, click here.

Boston Summer Learning Project (2014)
The Boston After School & Beyond partnership has some of the strongest summer learning programs in the country. This resource highlights various aspects of the 2013 Boston Summer Learning Project, including the Program’s approach and the impact that it had on students, teachers, Boston public schools, and community partners. It can be used as an example from which to model parts of summer learning programs.

Summer Matters: How Summer Learning Strengthens Students’ Success (2012)
This detailed evaluation report by the California Summer Matters Campaign examines the effectiveness of three summer learning programs in separate California communities. Specifically, it investigates how youth participation in high-quality programs impacts academic motivation and self-efficacy, pro-social attachments, and proficiency levels in English Language Arts. This report draws conclusions regarding how the data found in these three California communities can be used to strengthen program quality and lessen the achievement gap.

Summer Snapshot: Exploring the Impact of Higher Achievement's Year-Round Out-of-School-Time Program on Summer Learning (2011)
Higher Achievement provides multi-year comprehensive Out-of-School Time programming to rising fifth and sixth graders in Washington, DC; Baltimore, MD; and Alexandria, VA. This randomized control study (students were randomly assigned to participate in the program) showed that program participants fared better than non-participants in terms of their scores on standardized tests, participation in academic and summer activities, and enjoyment in learning. The study did not show any significant impact on the academic progress of participants over the summer months. Nevertheless, the authors conclude that it is possible to provide programming for older youth that keeps them engaged and sustains their interest and participation over time. It also shares that programs like Higher Achievement can help provide opportunities (e.g. visits to local high schools, exposure to careers, and enrichment activities) which can ultimately increase student educational attainment.

 

RESEARCH ON IMPORTANCE OF QUALITY SUMMER LEARNING PROGRAMS

Summer Learning Programs Help Kids Succeed (2015)
Compiled from the America After 3PM findings, this two-page Summer Fact Sheet highlights important data about the demand for high-quality summer learning programs. It includes relevant statistics on summer learning that can help make the case for summer program support.

Ready For Fall?: Near-Term Effects of Voluntary Summer Learning Programs on Low-Income Students’ Learning Opportunities and Outcomes (2014)
This study is the second report to come out of The Wallace Foundation’s Summer Learning District Demonstration Project. It explains the near-term impact of participation in a 2013 summer learning program over one summer on students’ academic performance. It finds that students’ performance improved on math assessments and did not change in regards to reading when returning to school in Fall 2013.

Summer Learning and the Achievement Gap (2013)
This basic one-page document from the National Summer Learning Association provides an overview of the most pressing aspects of the achievement gap and summer slide. It highlights facts and statistics in an easily readable format, making this a good resource to be distributed to relevant parties as a simple overview of the need for quality summer learning programs.

Teaching Kids How to Succeed in School (2013)
This report from the Partnership for Children & Youth explores the ways education leaders can use summer programs to improve their confidence as empowered learners. The Summer Matters Campaign off of which this is based is in California, but the findings have a wide applicability. It highlights different programs and explores how their structures promote the social and emotional development of youth through the use of survey data, program evaluations, and in-person observations. 

Getting a Head Start on the Common Core (2013)
A unique look into the blend between summer programming and the Common Core, this article from the Partnership for Children & Youth delves into ways summer programs can be used to not only prevent summer learning loss but also to build the capacity of students and staff to prosper in a Common Core environment. It highlights the work of several school districts throughout California who are emphasizing the skills and goals of Common Core in their summer programming.

Summer Learning Loss (2012)
This video from NBC’s Brian Williams chronicles what summer learning loss really looks like and how this disproportionately affects lower-income children and youth. It includes a visual depiction of a low-income student’s and a high-income student’s academic progressions throughout elementary and middle school to highlight the widening achievement gap between students with and without summer learning opportunities.

Engaging Families in Afterschool and Summer Learning Programs for Middle School Youth (2011)
This article is an excerpt from the book Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success. It explores the importance of engaging families in afterschool programming and summer learning, and it provides suggestions of effective engagement practices. 

More Than a Hunch: Kids Lose Learning Skills Over the Summer Months (2011)
This two-page research brief published by the National Center for Summer Learning shares findings from scholar Harris Cooper’s research into summer learning loss. Cooper asserts that all students lose math skills over the summer, but that middle class students sustain their reading level while low-income students experience declines. In addition, summer learning programs have significant positive outcomes, but these effects are greatest for middle class students—a finding Cooper suggests may reflect differences in funding and resources available in middle class communities as well as the difficulty of addressing serious achievement gaps in the summer months. Cooper suggests that policymakers allow for local development of programs, incorporate math and reading into program curricula, and rigorously evaluate program effects.

Special Report on Summer: Missed Opportunities, Unmet Demand (2010)
This special America After 3PM study, sponsored by The Wallace Foundation, examines summer learning from an access and demand lens. It draws conclusions regarding the breakdown of summer learning participation based on socioeconomic status and ethnicity. The report also provides state-by-state data around the percentage of children who participate in summer learning programs, the percentage who would likely participate based on levels of parental interest, and the percentage of parents who support public funding for these programs.

Summer Can Set Kids on the Right—or Wrong—Course (2009)
In this brief, Johns Hopkins sociology Professor Karl Alexander reflects on research conducted with colleagues demonstrating significant summer learning loss, particularly for low-income youth. According to Alexander, these losses pile up, contributing to an achievement gap that can make the difference between whether students set out on a path for college or decide to drop out of high school. Two of Alexander's key research findings include: 1) lower income children enter school with lower achievement levels, but progress at about the same rate as their middle/high income peers—yet during the summer months they "tread water" or fall behind, which constitutes the "summer slide"; and 2) summer learning loss accounts for about two-thirds of the variance in the likelihood of pursuing path toward college while in high school.

Summertime and Weight Gain (2009)
In this brief, Ohio State University statistician Paul von Hippel discusses research documenting significant weight gain of school-aged youth during the summer months. According to Hippel and his fellow researchers, students gain weight two to three times faster in the summer months than during the regular school year. Hippel suggests that summer learning programs can partially help to address the issue by providing additional opportunities for exercise and physical activity, limiting opportunities to eat, and decreasing the amount of time that children and youth spend unsupervised during the day.

Summer Learning Opportunities in High-Poverty Schools (2005)
This publication describes five summer learning programs, based in high-poverty schools, that have contributed to improved student achievement. The schools profiled include Charles R. Drew Elementary School, Gary Community School Corporation; East Silver Spring Elementary, Montgomery County Public Schools; John B. McFerran Preparatory Academy; Jefferson County Public Schools; Tarrallton Elementary School, Norfolk Public Schools; and Weil Technology Institute, Pittsburgh Public Schools. The profiles examine program goals, structure and content, professional development, funding and sustainability, student outcomes, challenges to implementation, and successes. The report also synthesizes best practices in implementing summer learning opportunities. 

 

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Email your Out-of-School Time reports, publications, best practices, case studies, blog articles, videos, media mentions, etc. to submissions@unitedway.org. We will contact you if we are featuring your resource in the OST Toolkit.