Organizations in California — and across the nation — are jumping into the education breach to fight the achievement gap that greatly reduces the academic success of those affected. The achievement gap refers to the persistent disparity of test scores and assessments between groups of students, especially groups defined by socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, and gender. Summer plays a huge role in the problem — and the solution.

Johns Hopkins University researchers estimate that as much as two-thirds of the achievement gap can be traced to summer learning loss in elementary school. And because that loss is cumulative, the achievement gap may never close. This year, a statewide campaign, Summer Matters, supports programs that boost student achievement through fun, relevant, experience-based learning. Also, the program focuses on expanding access for all California students.

Additionally, California is upping the ante and refining after school programs as well as summer ones. State education officials say expanded learning is important to parents because out-of-school-time programs keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and help working families. They’ve initiated  Expanding Learning Opportunities, which includes before and after school, summer, and intersession learning experiences. They’re goal is to develop the academic, social, emotional, and physical needs and interests of students with engaging, student-centered activities.

Research shows that these expanded learning programs are removing barriers to success, with participating students showing improved achievement in math, increased school attendance, and more positive attitudes toward learning. Educators and administrators believe expanded learning is important and are hoping parents get more involved in pushing for programs and funds to allow kids of all backgrounds to dig a little deeper.

Regardless of income, parents want every opportunity to prepare their children for successful futures, for college and fulfilling careers.

Check out these programs to learn more about what’s going on, why, and how to get involved.

Expanded learning and after school

Since 2007, roughly 4,500 schools in our state have been able to offer after school (and some summer learning) programs to thousands of students in high-poverty communities thanks to California voters’ support of Proposition 49 and to the federal investment in the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. We have become intensely focused on making sure that our investments in after school programs—nearly $700 million per year in California when state and federal funding are combined—are having the greatest possible impacts on student learning and success. See what and how we’re doing.


The California AfterSchool Network’s (CAN) purpose is to promote quality in expanded learning programs in California. CAN brings together and facilitates information between programs and State and National policymakers to inform best practices in the after school and policy that are translated to quality programs to meet the needs of all our kids.

Summer makes a big difference


The Summer Matters campaign supports programs that boost student achievement through fun, relevant, experience-based learning. Summer learning is best when students are:

  • Exposed to new adventures, skills, and ideas
  • Experiencing a mix of activities — reading, writing, math, science, arts – in ways that are fun and engaging
  • Getting better at doing something they care about
  • Working with their friends on group projects
  • Enjoying nutritious food, physical activity, and time outdoors
  • Getting enough time — at least a month — to benefit from these experiences

Help direct the money


Does your school have good summer learning and expanded learning programs? You can have a significant say in that, pushing for schools’ available funds to be distributed toward summer school, after school, etc. Participate in the LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula)  and direct the funding through LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan). The LCFF and LCAP requires collaboration with parents, teachers, school staff, and the community.

EdTrust-West explains the California funding system. Summer Matters offers tips for getting your district to invest in summer learning.

Summer reading programs

California libary association

Did you know reading five books in the summer can prevent “summer slide” — the loss of academic skills  over summer break? Visit your local public library to help open up new worlds, spark imagination, develop critical thinking, and prepare and support youths in school and life. And participate in the 5 Book Challenge.

And while you’re at it, join the One Million Readers Challenge, and let everyone know what a great time you’re having at the library by using the hashtag  #onemillionreaders. Visit the California Library Association for library news and information.

Another program many libraries are participating in is Lunch at the Library. In conjunction with Summer Meals Coalition, the library program helps keep kids healthy during the summer months and helps combat childhood hunger, obesity, and learning loss.

Summer meal program

California summer meal coalition

When school is out, we want all our kids to have a fun, engaging, and healthy summer. For many children, the stability and nutrition offered by the lunch they get at school ends when school lets out. During the summer children are at a higher risk of both obesity and hunger. The Summer Meals Coalition is a statewide network united to combat hunger and obesity by helping California’s children access free, healthy meals. Find free summer meals for your kids at libraries, schools, and recreation centers. Not only will they get a nutritious meal, but it’s in a fun and safe environment where they’ll engage in academic and recreational activities. It’s a win-win.

To find affordable summer or after school programs in your community, visit your local YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, or your city parks and recreation programs.

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Updated: January 24, 2016