Out-of-School and Summer Learning 

Providing extended school days, structured after-school programs, weekend school and summer learning opportunities are all evidence-based practices for igniting learning by providing students with additional hours of education. For many years, school districts have offered a range of programs and supports for students that take place outside the traditional school day. When these programs meet a set of evidence-based criteria, they have been shown to lead to positive student outcomes such as math and language arts achievement and improved self-confidence, attendance, and college and career readiness. Summer can also have a wide range of benefits for young people, including safety, physical and mental health, social and emotional development, and academic learning. With a focus on igniting learning as part of a district COVID-19 recovery strategy, out-of-school and summer programs can offer promising potential.

Guiding Questions  

  • Which students should participate in extended learning time opportunities?
  • What components of evidence-based out-of-school learning experiences have the greatest impact on student success?
Examples, Tools and Strategies
Strategies Aligned Resources

Offer Acceleration Academies

Schedule Acceleration Academies, intensive, small group (8-12 students) learning opportunities that take place over school vacations, to help students gain up to six months of learning through a single week (25 hours of instruction in math or English language arts).

Consider implementing a strategy similar to Washington, DC Public Schools’ Summer Acceleration Academies+ Add to Action Plan, designed to serve a targeted group of students at each school (approximately 10 to 35 percent) who require more focused support that provide both social emotional development and academic acceleration ahead of next school year.

Provide afterschool programs 

Partnering with external or replicating high-quality afterschool programs provides students with opportunities for academic supports and enrichment that lead to positive outcomes in students’ math and ELA scores; social, emotional, and leadership skills; and improvements in self-confidence, civic engagement , attendance, and graduation rates.

Learn from It’s About Time+ Add to Action Plan, a report capturing the extended school day experiences of Meriden, CT.

The Citizen Schools ELT programming model+ Add to Action Plan engages students in apprenticeships (that consist of hands-on learning projects) and activities to help students develop their organizational and study skills.

Build high quality summer programs

Design summer programs to meet student and community needs, provide high quality and meaningful learning experiences, and that run for long enough to make an impact. They are most effective when students experience them for multiple summers in a row.

Rand’s second edition Getting to Work on Summer Learning+ Add to Action Plan provides recommendations for district leaders and their partners who are interested in launching or improving summer learning programs.

  • Key suggestion: Commit in the fall to a summer program and begin planning and recruiting instructors by January.

Launch a comprehensive summer learning recruitment effort

Research shows that students with high attendance during summer learning experience higher learning outcomes in math and ELA, but getting kids to sign up for voluntary summer learning programs isn’t easy.

Launch a summer learning district-focused recruitment effort with the Summer Learning Recruitment Guide+ Add to Action Plan from the Wallace Foundation.

Build a positive climate and promote attendance

Students who attend at least 20 days of summer learning experience academic benefits. Thus, staff should be trained in and supported to nurture a positive learning environment that conveys clear messages about the importance of engagement, good attendance and positive instructor/student relationships.

Develop effective recruitment materials and attendance systems with the Wallace Summer Learning Toolkit+ Add to Action Plan to ensure that students benefit.

Strategically select curriculum

Research shows that all students lose math skills over the summer without practice and that  students from low-income households also lose critical skills in reading. Therefore, selecting and/or modifying curricula for use in summer learning programs is an important decision.

Share this Tip Sheet+ Add to Action Plan by the Wallace Foundation with summer program leaders for guidance about selecting and/or modifying program curriculum. Guiding questions ground a curriculum search in the goals, structure and resources of the program and the capabilities and professional development needs of staff.