Three ‘White Papers’ Explore Challenge of Summer Learning Loss in Children

October 02, 2009


The Wallace Foundation
Lucas Held, 212-251-9782

For author interviews:
Child Trends
David Carrier, 202-572-6138

National Summer Learning Association
Debra Carroll, 443-340-4641

Three ‘White Papers’ Explore Challenge of Summer Learning Loss in Children; Model Programs and Supportive Policies Seen as Part of the Solution

NEW YORK, N.Y., Oct. 2, 2009 – Effective summer programs can reduce summer learning loss among children – a leading cause of the achievement gap between low-income youth and more affluent students – but widespread improvement will require coordinated federal and state policies and continued attention to quality.

Those conclusions are made in three new white papers from Child Trends, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center that studies children at all stages of development, and the National Summer Learning Association, a non-profit organization providing resources and expertise to thousands of summer programs across the country.

The papers, commissioned by The Wallace Foundation, are available free as a collection here on Wallace’s website or individually at or

The release of the white papers comes as President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan have begun to focus attention on the notion of extending the school day and year. “Our school calendar is based upon the agrarian economy and not too many of our kids are working the fields today,” Duncan said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

“We hope these thoughtful white papers contribute to the debate about how we can make sure that summers are times of learning and enrichment for children and not a lost opportunity,” said Nancy Devine, director of communities for Wallace.

“Our review of the limited number of summer learning programs that have been rigorously evaluated suggests that these programs are likely to have positive impacts when they engage students in activities that are hands-on, enjoyable, and have real-world applications,” said Mary Terzian, Ph.D., M.S.W., Child Trends Research Scientist and lead author of one of the papers.

Jeff Smink, vice president of policy for the National Summer Learning Association, said: “Summer learning loss and its consequences, particularly for low-income youth, are well-documented. States and districts have an opportunity to better coordinate and access available resources to make quality summer learning programs accessible to more of the nation’s youth.”

The three papers include:

  • Effective and Promising Summer Learning Programs and Approaches for Economically-Disadvantaged Children and Youth examines available research on program outcomes for children, and identifies the characteristics of effective summer learning programs. It finds that reading and math achievement gains are possible. It concludes that good programs tend to include experienced teachers on staff, small group sizes and activities that make learning fun. Authors Mary Terzian, Kristin Anderson Moore and Kathleen Hamilton are researchers from the Child Trends research center. The paper is also available as a shorter Fact Sheet. Available here on Wallace’s website or
  • It’s Time for Summer: An Analysis of Recent Policy and Funding Opportunities suggests that summer learning programs could be expanded if disparate federal, state and local programs were better coordinated in a new vision for summer learning. The paper recommends that regulations for various federal education programs allow spending for summer programs and the creation of summer funding collaboratives of local foundations and corporations. Authors Ron Fairchild, Jeff Smink and Ashley B. Stewart are, respectively, chief executive officer, vice president-policy, and director-community initiatives at the National Summer Learning Association.Available here on Wallace’s website or
  • Building Quality in  Summer Learning Programs: Approaches and Recommendations identifies the different settings in which summer programs for disadvantaged youth most commonly take place – schools, parks and recreation departments, community- and faith-based organizations, and child-care programs – and examines the limitations and opportunities presented by each in building better programming. Authors Brenda McLaughlin and Sarah Pitcock are vice president-initiatives and director-program quality at the National Summer Learning Association. Available here on Wallace’s website or

The Wallace Foundation is an independent, national foundation dedicated to supporting and sharing effective ideas and practices that expand learning and enrichment opportunities for all people. The Foundation maintains an online library of lessons about what it has learned, including knowledge from its current efforts aimed at: strengthening educational leadership to improve student achievement; enhancing out-of-school time learning opportunities; and building appreciation and demand for the arts.