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Summer Programs Found to Yield Learning Gains

"Learning From Summer: Effects of Voluntary Summer Learning Programs on Low-Income Urban Youth"

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What does it take for a voluntary, school-district-led summer learning program to be successful?

As it turns out, a large part of it is getting students to show up, according to a study released last week by the Wallace Foundation.

RAND Corp. researchers found that students classified as “high attenders,” those who attended at least 20 days of a five- to six-week program, saw benefits in reading and math that persisted into the following spring.

“It’s really interesting that a five-week program could confer those benefits that would last throughout the school year and could, in theory, then be built upon in the next summer ... and could help get at closing the achievement gap between low-income kids and their higher-income peers,” said Catherine Augustine, the study’s primary investigator.

Summer Attendance vs. Benefits

Augustine and her colleagues tracked students who participated in the five voluntary, district-led programs that make up Wallace’s National Summer Learning Project—Boston; Dallas; Duval County, Fla.; Pittsburgh; and Rochester, N.Y. That initiative began in 2011 to expand learning opportunities for low-income and low-achieving elementary school students. (The Wallace Foundation also helps support coverage of leadership, arts education, and extended learning in Education Week.)

The researchers analyzed data for 3,192 students who initially signed up for the programs the summer after 3rd grade. Compared with a control group of nonparticipating students, the high attenders acquired an academic advantage that translated to 20 percent to 25 percent of students’ typical annual gains in reading and math.

Researchers said that time spent actually working on academics was also key. “If they’re offering math, they should be offering an hour and a half a day of math and really protecting that time and not replacing it with a field trip or an assembly,” said Augustine.

Vol. 36, Issue 04, Page 5

Published in Print: September 14, 2016, as Summer Programs Found to Yield Learning Gains
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