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What to Look for in a Summer Learning Program

Follow these guidelines to find the best summer learning program for your child.

By GreatSchools Staff

How do you choose among all the remedial, enrichment, public and private summer learning programs? How do you know if the summer learning program you've chosen is right for your child? Will summer school help your child achieve better results on state standardized tests? These guidelines will help you find the best program that will be a good fit for your child.

Benefits of Summer Learning Programs

Summer learning programs offset "summer slide," the tendency of students to regress academically when they are not in school. On average, students lose one month's worth of skills on achievement test scores during the summer vacation. All students tend to fall behind in math and spelling because they have fewer opportunities to practice these skills during the summer. Low-income students are more likely to lose ground in reading than middle- and high-income students. That's because middle- and high-income students are more likely to be exposed to books and reading programs during the summer.

A 2007 study concludes that this difference in summer reading may account for two-thirds of the reading achievement gap between ninth graders from low- and high-income families. This link is a PDF file, which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can download it for free if you click here.

In recent years 14 states have passed laws to expand summer school opportunities to help students meet state standards. A survey of the country's 100 largest school districts found that 59 percent offered summer programs.

Research has shown that summer learning opportunities overall have a positive impact on student achievement. A review of the research, conducted by Harris Cooper, found some interesting results:

  • Enrichment programs are similar to remediation programs in their positive effect on raising student achievement.
  • Remediation programs have more impact when the program is small-a small number of schools or classes in a small community.
  • Summer programs that require parent involvement have a greater positive effect than programs that do not require parents to be involved.
  • Remedial programs have a greater positive effect on students in the early primary grades and in high school than in middle school.
  • Requiring attendance does not make a program more effective than a voluntary program.
  • Attending a summer program once can't make up for accumulated years of learning loss.
  • Summer school programs are not a "cure-all" for low student achievement but can be a significant part of an integrated school district program to raise student achievement levels.

Comments from readers

"i am 13 year old. i am from Georgia.also i like literature and writing."
"i want to get in your summer school.i want to learn profession ,which i have chosen.i am interested in natural sciences.i am learning English now."
"what year was this article written?"
"Good overview article, but when I tried to access the '2007 study' it wouldn't come up. Can you send me the full reference? Thanks."
"We are looking for a literature/writing based summer school for high schooler. Do you have a list of available programs or perhaps give us a web site to find availble ones?"