Low-income students disproportionately suffer learning setbacks over summer vacations, but this key report from the RAND Corp. finds evidence that well-designed programs can ease the problem.
In June, July and August, many students forget some of what they learned over the preceding school year. But the “summer slide” takes its biggest toll on low-income students, contributing substantially to the achievement gap that exists between them and their middle- and upper-class peers. This major RAND Corp. study also finds evidence that a variety of summer learning programs can help, including voluntary, mandatory and reading-at-home programs. Despite the clear benefits, however, paying for the programs can be a major concern. Indeed, some district leaders have questioned the cost effectiveness of summer learning programs and discontinued them in response to budget cuts. For districts investing in summer learning, the RAND Corp. offers the following recommendations:
- Commit to high-quality staffing and early planning;
- Incorporate practices to boost the chances of program success, such as smaller class sizes, individualized instruction and close alignment with the school-year curriculum;
- Maximize the benefits of partnerships with community organizations; and
- Engage in creative thinking about funding sources.
RAND also offers recommendations for policymakers and funders, including that they support stable funding for programs; provide clear guidance on how funding sources can be combined to finance summer programs; and invest in rigorous research on matters such as the programs’ academic and non-academic effects on children.