Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How Summer Learning Strengthens Students' Success

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
We know from research that summer learning loss suffered by kids who do not have access to engaging summer programs is significant. Public Profit, an evaluation and technical assistance firm, has just released their findings on the benefits that children accrued by participating in pilot summer programs across the state. This publication also identified features of quality programs, which are well-aligned with the learning principles promoted by the Learning in Afterschool & Summer project. 

Below is a partial list of benefits that were found and a citing of quality program features. As positive evidence about the effectiveness of summer learning programs mount, so must our advocacy efforts to increase young people's access to these programs. To read a full copy of the executive summary, click here. To access the full report, click here

Key findings include:

  • Students ended the summer with vocabulary skills much closer to their grade level, increasing their instructional grade level by over 1/3 of a grade. 

  • English language learners demonstrated significant increases in their grade-level vocabulary, a gateway to English language fluency. 

  • Parents reported that their kids improved their attitude towards reading (68%) and reading ability (62%). 

  • Overall, 86% of parents reported the summer programs gave their kids opportunities to develop leadership skills. 

  • Parents and educators emphasized summer learning programs’ critical role in providing students with new experiences and opportunities – such as field trips and community service projects – that they do not have during the school year. 

  • Students in Fresno and Los Angeles summer learning programs reported improved academic work habits and reading efficacy, both key contributors to academic achievement. 

Elements of high quality summer learning:

  • Broadens kids’ horizons – by exposing them to new adventures, skills and ideas. These could be activities like going on a nature walking, using a new computer program, giving a presentation, visiting a museum or attending a live performance.  

  • Includes a wide variety of activities – such as reading, writing, math, science, arts and public service projects – in ways that are fun and engaging. 

  • Helps kids build skills – by helping them improve at doing something they enjoy and care about. This could be anything from creating a neighborhood garden, to writing a healthy snacks cookbook to operating a robot. 

  • Fosters cooperative learning – by working with their friends on team projects and group activities such as a neighborhood clean-up, group presentation or canned food drive. 

  • Promotes healthy habits – by providing nutritious food, physical recreation and outdoor activities. 

  • Lasts at least one month – giving kids enough time to benefit from their summer learning experiences. 

To learn more about the Summer Matters initiative, click here.

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