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Summer Learning Toolkit

December 4, 2018
Evidence-based tools and guidance for delivering effective programs

Academics & Enrichment

Students will spend the majority of their time in either academic or enrichment programming, so selecting the right curricula and partners is essential to the overall success of the program. RAND found that adopting a common written curriculum for English language arts and mathematics that matches students’ academic needs and abilities is necessary for high-quality instruction. They also found that quality enrichment was key to creating fun and enjoyable days for students. High-quality enrichment classes included activities that were organized, engaging and allowed for the majority of students to actively participate for the duration of the class period. For both academics and enrichment, clear lesson plans with sequenced activities help to ensure that all students are engaged and precious instructional time is spent as intended.

A young man draws on the wall

Summer Dreamers Academy provides teachers with the curriculum when they’re hired, which means that our internal curriculum and instruction teams are making modifications and developing pacing guides during the winter months.

— James Doyle, Executive Director of Higher Achievement Pittsburgh and former Coordinator of After-School Programs, Pittsburgh Public Schools

Example Milestones for Academics and Enrichment

Example Milestones for Academics and Enrichment

Modifying curricula to meet student needs

​While RAND found that having a standard curriculum was important, whether you choose to select something new or modify an existing curriculum may depend on your program’s goals, existing resources and program population.

Teacher and student
  • Begin with the end in mind: First identify the target population of students to be served and your goals for their growth over the summer.
  • Be realistic about time: Consider how much instructional time you have in a day and over the course of the summer. Also factor in how much time will be needed for preprogram training, practice and planning with the curriculum.
Related Resources

Tip Sheet - Selecting and Modifying Summer Curricula

Guidance to set a direction for your program’s curriculum

Tip Sheet - Using Data to Strategically Group Students

Strategies to inform lesson plans and flexible groupings

Building partnerships for high-quality enrichment

Offering a range of fun activities is considered an effective strategy for maximizing summer-program participation. Typically, school districts look to community-based partners for expertise in activities like sports, arts, design and cooking. It’s important to ensure these partners are equipped to carry out the program’s mission.

  • ​Use the RFP wisely: Set clear requirements and expectations to recruit providers that best fit your mission. Best practices include keeping enrichment class sizes small and hiring enrichment instructors with relevant content knowledge.
  • Get on the same page: Use a Memorandum of Understanding to clearly delineate roles and responsibilities between the district and its partners.
Related Resources

Sample - Boston Summer Enrichment MOU

Describes the partner’s role in comanaging the design, administration and delivery of the program

Minimizing loss of instructional time

Simply being in a classroom over the summer is not enough. To reap benefits, young people must be engaged in meaningful learning that supports their achievement. Without careful planning and delivery, precious time for learning can often be lost during transitions, at the beginning and end of classes and for special events and trips. Adults in the program must be prepared to protect and maximize time for academic learning.

  • ​Make it a priority: Create a master schedule with adequate time for transitions, academic classes in continuous blocks and 3-4 hours per day for academics.
  • Keep logistics smooth: Ensure buses, meals and supplies are delivered on time.
  • Prepare staff: Provide instructors with strategies to quickly launch and wrap-up lessons, manage independent practice time and re-energize students during the afternoon slump.
Related Resources

Getting to Work on Summer Learning 2nd edition

Time on Task chapter

For ideas on how to use pre-service training to help teachers and staff maximize instructional time, visit the Tip Sheet – Planning High-Quality Professional Development within the Staffing and Professional Development section of the Toolkit.

Additional Academic & Enrichment Resources

​The Toolkit includes an example site schedule, a sample data report for participating sites, and the process to approve district funding requests for summer learning programs.

Related Resources

Tool - Summer Planning Calendar

Comprehensive to-do list by month and topic paired with expert guidance

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