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Develop Your Strategy

When it comes to recruitment, we have identified Eight Keys to Success. They are based both on our observations of what worked and what did not in each of the five participating districts, and the direct technical assistance that Crosby provided to each district. The capacity of every public school district to fully implement each of these keys will vary—the success of a recruitment effort will be maximized by incorporating these keys to the extent practicable.

What Parents Think
Focus groups with parents in three cities taught us a lot about what parents think about summer and summer learning. This knowledge greatly helped the districts and their partners engage parents. We learned, for example, that parents often mistake summer learning for traditional summer school, which is not a great “brand.” And parents are very protective of their children’s summertime—they want them to have a break from the rigors of the school year. However, when we explained that a summer learning program is a mix of academics and fun, parents were all for it. They especially liked that summer learning can help their child get ready to succeed in the next school year. Read more about what we learned parents think about summer and summer learning—it will help you market your summer learning program.

More on what Parents Think


Understand Your Audience

The more you know about what parents think about summer and your summer learning program, and what they want for their children, the more likely you are to craft and implement a successful recruitment program. Engage in some research. Learn what parents want your program to offer their children; what their children think of your program; what details parents need to make decisions about registering their children; and what barriers could get in the way of their children taking part. Whether you and your team have discussions with parents directly, or a research center at a local university conducts formal focus groups, investing the time and effort to learn about your key audiences is invaluable. The result will be messaging that resonates with parents and hits the right notes in your outreach materials.


Create Engaging Messaging

Work hard at getting your messaging right. Make sure your recruitment materials emphasize what’s most important and motivating to parents, rather than leading with bureaucratic requirements like deadlines and forms to be completed. Good messaging should note that district teachers lead academics and trained professionals lead enrichment activities; your program is a mix of academics and fun; summer learning helps students get ready to succeed in the fall; and the program takes place in a safe environment, and transportation and meals are included. And say “no-cost” rather than free when describing your program. You’ll also need to develop messaging that’s unique to your summer learning program—this section offers step-by-step guidance to create messaging that is aspirational and will resonate with parents.


Create a Written Plan

A written plan is a cannot-do-without guide for you and your team’s recruitment effort. It will define the steps you will take to implement your recruitment effort. Your plan should identify target audiences. Avoid broad categories; instead, be as specific as possible, such as “children who have IEPs” or “children at low levels of reading proficiency.” Set goals that can be clearly measured, such as how many students from specific grades register. And spell out what needs to happen—the objectives that need to be achieved—for your recruitment plan to be successful. Finally, put all your tactics in a calendar or timeline. That’s the only way to plan accordingly and make sure what needs to get done, gets done. And then measure as much as possible. Measure steps along the way, such as the number of principal meetings that take place, and outcomes, the number of students that register.


Children from low-income families
take part in out-of-school activities at half the rate of their more affluent peers.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
For many students, summer learning will open new worlds.
Use These Best Practices

Our work with the districts and their partners taking part in the National Summer Learning Project revealed a set of best practices for marketing your summer learning program. Building upon the keys to success—understand your audience; create engaging messaging; and create a written plan—they can ensure you engage with parents and students in the most effective and efficient ways possible. Incorporate these best practices in your recruitment program and you can greatly enhance the likelihood of achieving your goals.

Be Consistent and Assertive

Parents should hear about your program several times, using different channels. More >>

Use personalized outreach

Have trusted messengers—principals, guidance counselors, teachers—reach out to parents and students. More >>

Build relationships wtih parents and students

Help make parents and students feel they are part of your summer learning “family.” More >>

Make registration as easy as possible

Give parents as many ways as possible to register their child. More >>

Engage directly with students

Keep in mind: students are your most important “customers.” More >>


"Develop Your Strategy" Summary Summer Start by understanding your audience, creating engaging messaging, and building a written plan—the foundation of your recruitment effort. They take some time and effort, but follow the guidance we’ve included here and it will be manageable. Then use our best practices, being “consistent and assertive” to build a connection between your summer learning program and parents and students.

 Test your knowledge:



What are the three building blocks for a recruitment effort?What are the three building blocks for a recruitment effort?One, take the time to understand your audience. Two, create engaging messaging. Three build a written plan.
Why is researching your audience so important?Why is researching your audience so important?You will learn what parents want in a summer learning program, what information will help them decide to register, and if there are any barriers in the way of parents signing up their children.
What are 3 things your recruitment materials need to communicate?What are 3 things your recruitment materials need to communicate?One, your child will get ready to succeed in the fall. Two, qualified teachers are teaching your child. Three, summer learning is a mix of academics and fun.