Summer learning programs

Program basics

  • Increased academic instruction as well as athletic and artistic activities for students
  • Typically operate 4–8 hours per day, four or five days a week
  • Provide support and reinforcement for academic skills or help prevent their attrition over summer break

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Proven (highest tier)


Proven (highest tier)

Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

Target population

All school-aged children

Program cost

Estimated $7-19 per student per hour

Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active

Not available

Outcomes and impact

  • Increased academic achievement
  • Improvements in social and emotional competencies
  • Several studies have shown significant gains for students in math and reading when attending summer programs focused on these skills
  • Longer duration programs with well-trained and evaluated staff typically yield more positive results

Keys to successful implementation

  • Conduct thorough planning well in advance of the summer. Planning should begin no later than January.
  • Identify a dedicated director to plan the summer program. This person should be able to dedicate at least half their time to the program.
  • Set the number of summer teachers with a realistic expectation that a significant portion of initial enrollees will not attend the program.
  • Set clear student eligibility guidelines for the program. Some summer programs are designed for all students, while others are open only to certain student groups, like ELL students.
  • Operate the program for five to six weeks with three to four hours of academics per day.
  • Hire summer teachers based on merit, motivation, and grade-level experience. Be mindful to hire staff with experience providing for students with special needs.
  • Establish a clear attendance policy, setting the expectation that students should attend every day. Expectations should be no different from the regular school year.

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