Catherine H. Augustine, Jennifer Sloan McCombs, John F. Pane, Heather L. Schwartz, Jonathan Schweig, Andrew McEachin, Kyle Siler-Evans. Learning from Summer: Effects of Voluntary Summer Learning Programs on Low-Income Urban Youth (September 2016) Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation.
The largest-ever study of summer learning finds that students with high attendance in free, five to six-week, voluntary summer learning programs experienced educationally meaningful benefits in math and reading after two summers (20-25 percent annual gains in math and reading) compared with the control group. High attendance in voluntary summer programs isn’t the only factor in student outcomes. Students who received at least 25 hours of math or 34 hours of English Language Arts instruction did better than control group students on tests in fall 2013 and fall 2014. For students to experience lasting benefits from attending summer programs, the report recommends that districts: run programs for at least five weeks; promote high attendance; include sufficient instructional time and protect it; invest in instructional quality; and factor in attendance and likely no-show rates when staffing the programs in order to lower per-student costs.