The publication examines how three districts—Dallas, Pittsburgh and Rochester—worked to institutionalize summer programming, meaning, among other things, an expectation of continuation, routinized implementation, and routine allocation of money and time. Despite challenges, the program leaders say their efforts have helped garner buy-in for their programs, resulting in improvements and efficiencies.
The districts were part of a Wallace Foundation effort to create more summer learning opportunities for low-income students and to find out whether and how voluntary-attendance summer learning programs can help them succeed in school.
The programs’ leaders used three main strategies to try to ensure the durability of their efforts:
- Building awareness of their programs and connecting program goals to larger district goals;
- Ensuring all relevant departments were represented in the planning process; and
- Involving expert staff members and existing district systems in supporting the programs.
All three strategies came with challenges. Some school and district staff members saw summer programming as competing with, rather than complementing, other priorities; some were reserving judgement until they could be shown evidence of improved student outcomes. In two districts, an inclusive planning process led to struggles over decision-making authority and other disagreements. Expert staff members needed enough time, the right incentives and sufficient understanding of summer programming in order to provide effective support.
Nonetheless, all three districts continued to fund their programs at the same level through summer 2017. Therefore, RAND recommends that other districts interested in summer programming consider steps such as:
Collecting outcomes data for summer programming and using these data to create and share messages that focus on key academic goals;
- Establishing a planning team that includes all relevant departments (e.g. transportation, facilities, IT, curriculum development) and designating a single staff member to manage the planning process;
- Incorporating summer responsibilities into job descriptions for new hires.