Wallace’s National Summer Learning Project examines whether and how large-scale, voluntary summer learning programs led by public school districts can improve academic achievement for children in low-income urban communities. At the heart of the effort is support for summer learning programs in five urban school districts and a randomized controlled trial that, among other things, assesses results for children who participated in two consecutive summers of the programming beginning in 2013, when they were rising fourth graders.

This report looks at the impact on children in the near-term—that is, during the fall after the first summer of programming. In addition to finding that the districts successfully recruited large numbers of low-income students into the summer programs, the researchers determined that:

  • Children selected to take part in the summer learning programs scored higher on the fall math assessment administered for the study than those who were not selected.
  • The fall assessment of reading comprehension and vocabulary skills did not detect differences in reading achievement between the two groups of students.
  • The more days that students attended and the more time they spent on task, the greater their advantage in math compared with those not selected for the program.
  • Students in orderly classrooms where reading teachers provided high-quality instruction and had just taught 3rd or 4th grade tended to perform better on the fall reading assessment than other children who took part in the program.
For more recent outcome findings on student performance in both math and reading, see Learning from Summer: Effects of Voluntary Summer Learning Programs on Low-Income Urban Youth.

 Points of Interest

  • A randomized controlled trial examined the impact of school district summer learning programs on rising fourth graders. Among other things, it found that in the near term students gained 17 to 21 percent of the average increase in math learning for children in this age group in one year.
    Study of #summerlearning impact: gain of up to 21% of average increase in math learning for 3rd/4th-graders in 1 year.
  • Research finds a link between two factors in summer learning programs and how students perform on math assessments the following fall: strong attendance and more time devoted to instruction.
    #Summerlearning study: link b/w strong attendance/more math instruction and higher fall math test scores.
  • Three factors are associated with better student performance in English Language Arts: orderliness in the classroom, high-quality instruction and teachers who had just taught the same age group as the summer students.
    #Summerlearning "dos" for ELA: Orderliness, strong instruction, teachers experienced with the class age-group.