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Report Series: National Summer Learning Project
Part 8 of 8

Summer for All

Building Coordinated Networks to Promote Access to Quality Summer Learning and Enrichment Opportunities Across a Community

A look at how organizations in four cities successfully coordinated efforts to increase access to, and improve the quality of, summer learning opportunities.
November 2021
Summer for All
  • Author(s)
  • Catherine H. Augustine, Jennifer Sloan McCombs, and Garrett Baker
  • Publisher(s)
  • RAND Corporation
Page Count 67 pages


How we did this

Research for this report relied on websites, reports, documents, and data from interviews with city stakeholders in four cities— Boston, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C.

This report looks at how schools and civic organizations, in four cities — Boston, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C. — formed critical coordinated networks. Their goal was to ensure long-lasting access to high-quality summer programming for young people. 

To that end, all four cities brought together their school district and an array of other players. That included everyone from the library system and after-school providers to local government agencies. They worked together to strengthen and promote existing programs and create new summer program slots.

Three of the cities—Boston, Dallas and Pittsburgh—were participants in the Wallace-funded National Summer Learning Project, which sought to expand access to summer learning opportunities. It also aimed to understand whether and how voluntary district-run summer learning programs could achieve two objectives. One was helping to promote success in school. The other was to provide high-quality enrichment opportunities.

Key findings

In 2017, the report’s authors interviewed representatives of organizations involved in the effort. The report points to the following findings:

  • Previous partnerships helped. Organizations in all four cities had at least some prior experience working together on summer services. For that reason, launching a new coordinated effort was a relatively easy next step.
  • Mayoral involvement was critical. The mayors of these cities served as key supporters. They set goals, kept the various players on task, and attracted funding and media attention.
  • Goals varied from city to city. They included raising awareness of summer programming, improving program quality and promoting neighborhood safety.
  • There were three leadership models. The leaders in Boston and Dallas were the local out-of-school-time intermediary. In Washington, D.C., the mayor’s office took the lead, with the Department of Education playing a facilitating role. In Pittsburgh, leadership was distributed among all participating organizations. All three models were successful, but the intermediary-led efforts made the most progress in quality improvement.
  • All four cities were successful in many areas. They raised awareness of summer learning opportunities and provided families with information about specific programs. They also increased the number of young people participating in programs. In addition, they improved program quality and attracted the attention of funders and policymakers.
  • Districts faced many challenges. They included building and maintaining buy-in from all players, as well as keeping them moving in the same direction. Securing sustainable funding was also a stumbling block. Still, at least three of four cities continued their efforts for at least four years after the authors’ initial research. 

Key Takeways

  • All four cities were successful in many areas, ranging from raising awareness of summer learning opportunities to improving program quality.
  • Most of the four continued their efforts for at least four years after the initial research ended.
  • Mayoral support was essential to the success of coordinated networks.
  • Cities built on existing relationships, while also involving new people and organizations connected to summer programming.

Materials & Downloads

What We Don't Know

  • Why were the intermediary-led networks farther along in their quality improvement efforts?
  • Researchers conjecture that their findings might be most applicable to other mid sized cities. What can be surmised about how the findings apply to larger urban centers?
  • Research was conducted in 2017. How were programs affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?
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