Summer Learning



Teacher and studentsEarly and consistent summer learning opportunities can help close opportunity gaps, lead to higher graduation rates and increase college readiness in students.

Research demonstrates that every summer, low-income children lose two to three months of reading and math, while their higher-income peers make slight gains. Over time, these losses add up, and by the fifth grade, low-income students can be two-and-a-half to three years behind, making summer learning loss one of the biggest drivers of the achievement gap. By the ninth grade, previous access to summer learning can predict college and career readiness and whether a student will graduate on time.

Traditionally thought of as time for students to make up failed classes, policymakers and educators are increasingly thinking of summer learning as an opportunity to close achievement gaps that are created during the summer months. Securing sustainable funding and ensuring quality, however, remains a challenge. In response, states are enacting policy to support and strengthen summer learning.

Recent State Action

In the 2018 session, Alabama allocated $500,000 for a summer pilot program to improve literacy outcomes for K-3 students through project-based learning from qualified instructors and literacy specialists.

To curb the effects of summer slide, Tennessee enacted legislation in 2018 requiring local school districts to provide all K-8 students with a Summer Scholars Guide at the end of each school year. The guide will provide parents with personalized information to help students retain knowledge over the summer and prepare for the curriculum requirements of the following school year.

After a successful pilot program that ran from 2015-2017, Washington Senate Bill 5258 extended the state’s Academic, Innovation, and Mentoring (AIM) Program in 2017. The bill allocates $350,000 in grants to programs providing academic enrichment to school-age students outside school hours, including during the summer months.

High Quality Programs

The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) highlights these programs as some of the best in the nation:

Early Literacy

Kids Read Now

Kids Read Now has served nearly 27,000 K-3 students in a program promoting literacy skills through family engagement and student voice. Participants saw significant gains in reading proficiency, particularly among low-income populations. Read more.

College and Career Readiness

College & Career Readiness Summer Institute at Fayetteville State University

Based in Fayetteville, NC, the College and Career Readiness Summer Institute targets older youth from low-income families. Programs focus on closing the achievement gap through enrichment opportunities and ensuring that students have exposure to the same opportunities as their higher income peers. Read more.


Math Corps Summer Camp at Wayne State University

The Math Corps Summer Camp serves 400 middle and high school students in the Detroit area. Students participate in hands-on mathematics activities with college student teachers and mentors, receiving instruction in everything from mathetics fundamentals to college-level coursework. Read more.

To get more examples of excellent summer programs across the states, check out the 2018 New York Life Excellence In Summer Learning Awards and the Rhode Island Afterschool Plus Alliance’s model for summer learning. 

Additional Resources