Data for this report are drawn from interviews, meeting minutes, and summer program and district documents. Researchers interviewed more than 60 district staff members involved in summer programming in three school districts—Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Rochester—from November 2015 through January 2016.
Districts can take steps to integrate their summer programs into their schools’ core priorities. Doing this can help to ensure the long-term sustainability of their programs.
Those are the conclusions of this report, which examines how three school districts—Dallas, Pittsburgh and Rochester—went about institutionalizing their summer learning programs.
While the districts’ aim was to make sure their programs had staying power, they also sought to increase program quality and efficiency. That involved, among other things:
Program leaders say their efforts helped garner active support for their programs. They also resulted in improvements and efficiencies.
The districts were part of a Wallace Foundation project to create more summer learning opportunities for low-income students. The project also sought to find out how voluntary-attendance summer learning programs can help such students succeed in school.
The programs’ leaders used three main strategies to try to ensure the durability of their efforts:
All three strategies met with many challenges. Some school and district staff members viewed summer programming as competing with other priorities. Others reserved judgment until they could see evidence of improved student outcomes. In two districts, an inclusive planning process led to disagreements over who had decision-making authority. Expert staff members also needed more time, the right incentives, and greater understanding of summer programming to provide effective support.
All three districts continued to fund their programs at the same level through summer 2017, when Wallace funding was scheduled to end.
Summer learning programs can potentially mitigate the gaps between students from low-income and higher-income households.