Research spanning 100 years has proven that students lose ground academically when they are out of school for the summer. The problem is particularly acute among low-income students who lose an average of more than two months in reading achievement in the summer, which slows their progress toward third grade reading proficiency. And it exacerbates the achievement gap with their middle-class peers.
Funders, policymakers, and community leaders can help schools and local organizations address summer learning loss by supporting strong programs engaging more children in summer learning opportunities. Transcending the punitive and remedial model of summer school, summer learning’s new form is a blend of core academic learning, hands-on activities, arts, sports, technology, and meaningful relationships.
By the numbers
Low-income students lose an average of more than two months in reading achievement in the summer, while their middle-income peers tend to make gains in reading.
By the end of fifth grade, disadvantaged children are nearly three grade equivalents behind their more affluent peers in reading.
Several studies of summer learning programs show that students make statistically significant gains in reading performance.
Investment in summer programs should help align dollars from other programs—libraries, recreation, and juvenile services—to provide comprehensive programming that:
- Increases the duration and intensity of programming to a six-week, full-day model.
- Expands participation to all students in Title 1 schools, or all youth living in poverty.
- Changes the focus from narrow remediation and test preparation to one that blends academic learning in core subjects, hands-on activities, technology, and enrichment.
- Strengthens and expands partnerships between schools, community organizations, and public agencies to leverage resources, identify gaps, and improve programs.
- Provides incentives to students that improve attendance and engagement with enrichment activities such as arts, music, and sports and free breakfast and lunch.
- Offers innovative professional development for educators and youth development leaders.
- Engages in rigorous evaluation of implementation and impact to strengthen the evidence base for “what works.”
- Moves summer programs from the periphery to the core of school reform strategies through better planning, infrastructure, data collection, and accountability.