Youth Today: Longer Summer Programs, Consistent Participation Needed for Learning Gap, New Report Advises

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unnamed-3Students who regularly attended summer learning programs experienced lasting increases in mathematics and language arts abilities, as well as an increase in social and emotional competency, according to the report “Learning From Summer — Effects of Voluntary Summer Learning Programs on Low-Income Urban Youth,” released Wednesday by The Wallace Foundation.

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In all five cities, school districts partnered with community-based organizations, including jointly designing and managing the summer programs in Boston and Dallas.

Chris Smith, executive director of Boston After School & Beyond

Chris Smith, executive director of Boston After School & Beyond

“It’s exciting that so many different kinds of programs can play a meaningful role in summer learning and that their combined efforts can produce results not just during the summer but throughout the school year,” said Chris Smith, executive director of Boston After School & Beyond, which worked with the district there on the program.

The study’s findings on attendance are especially encouraging, because program providers know they can improve how consistently students show up, he said.

Seven Boston program providers were part of the study, but a larger network of 100 out-of-school-time providers has been working for several years to build the city’s summer programming infrastructure. The results point the way for all those groups, Smith said.

Key takeaways from Boston providers’ experiences Smith noted include that providers should:

  • play to their strengths by offering enrichment programming in their areas of expertise;
  • measure performance; and
  • plan throughout the school year alongside their peers and the district to ensure the best outcomes for students.

“Programs that are open to collaborating with each other will strengthen their hand when they’re trying to work with the school district, rather than forming separate individual relationships,” Smith said.

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