The American Rescue Plan Act has made funds available to states and districts to speed up recovery from the effects of COVID-19, including addressing learning loss. The Wallace Foundation has distilled evidence from its work that may be helpful in informing choices about how to spend those funds, as well as how to implement key strategies.

Summer learning programs have been demonstrated to produce a wide range of benefits for young people, including safety, physical and mental health, social and emotional development, and academic learning. However, summer is also a time when inequities are exacerbated, as not all children have access to high-quality summer learning programs. This document offers research-based guidance on how effective summer programs can be implemented, based on The Wallace Foundation’s National Summer Learning Project, which reflects one approach to summer programming that was designed to combine academics and non-academic, or enrichment, activities.

Key elements of effective summer learning programs that combine academics and enrichment and are linked to benefits for young people include:

  • Designing programs targeted to the needs of participants, with programming linked to desired outcomes and with sufficient duration
  • Starting to plan for summer programming early, with coordination across all relevant departments, including curriculum, facilities, transportation and others
  • Creating effective recruitment strategies to enroll students
  • Encouraging consistent attendance
  • Staffing programs with experienced teachers and instructors and offering professional development opportunities
  • Establishing a positive site climate that is warm and welcoming with culturally responsive approaches

The document includes an annotated bibliography with more research and tools for further reading on how to implement these strategies.