Seattle Foundation Blog

Achieving Strong Academic Outcomes For All Youth

Summer learning programs can provide a variety of activities such as academic support, enrichment opportunities, cultural and social development, leadership skills, job training or even environmental exploration.


June 20, 2016

By Tom McIntire, Officer, Community Programs

The anticipated start of summer is officially here and for many students, this season means a break from the classroom. But every summer, children and youth forget between one to three months of what they learned in school the previous year. Taking a couple steps back each summer is commonly referred to as summer learning loss.

Disproportionately strong negative effects on students from families with low incomes accumulate over time and result in significant achievement gaps. Families with low incomes face barriers that include cost, convenience and transportation issues that may prevent a child from participating in otherwise available early childhood education and summer learning experiences.

Summer learning programs can provide a variety of activities such as academic support, enrichment opportunities, cultural and social development, outdoor recreation, visual and performing arts events, leadership skills, job training or even environmental exploration.

Schools, parks and recreation departments, libraries and youth-serving entities such as the YMCA, Campfire USA and Boys & Girls Clubs all provide a variety of opportunities for extended learning into the summer months. Many of these summer learning programs give young people the chance to engage in experiences they may not have available to them during the school year.

According to a recent Rand Corporation study recommendations, high-quality programs to mitigate learning loss do the following:

— Operate at least five to six consecutive weeks during the summer months and provide at least three to four hours of academic content each day
— Allow for small groups and provide one-on-one support for students with special needs
— Look different than a typical school day
— Provide opportunities for hands-on and experiential learning
— Combine academics with fun
— Create summer-specific programming and train staff appropriately

A portion of the Families and Education Levy funds, administered by the City of Seattle Office for Education, has funded summer learning programs since 2012 and will fund programs through the 2018-2019 school year. Funded programs address summer learning loss and also provide extra catch-up time for students who are behind.  As philanthropists consider their giving this summer, investing in high-quality summer programs is a critical strategy to achieving strong academic outcomes for all youth. 

(Sources: School’s Out Washington Summer Learning Policy Brief, City of Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning, Rand Corporation)

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