Over the past two summers YDEKC, in partnership with the Road Map Project, School’s Out Washington, and MEMconsultants worked with fourteen summer learning programs offered by youth organizations to better understand the state and impact of summer learning programs. This white paper summarizes the findings and lessons learned of the Summer Learning Exploratory Study, which was designed to build a community of practice focused on mitigating summer learning loss and to engage in exploratory assessment of summer program quality, youth engagement, and participant academic growth.
Fourteen King County-based summer programs from seven organizations participated in this study over the course of 19 months. Participating programs balanced delivery of activities focused on academics and enrichment, aiming to expose students to new experiences while offering engaging learning activities. All programs utilized partnerships and field trips to provide enriching program activities. All programs delivered meals, and most planned formal family engagement activities. This was not a new funding source for programs, but an opportunity to learn from other programs and receive support for assessment and evaluation. The exploratory study found the following program successes:
- Summer programs showed quality improvement through the Youth Program Quality Intervention process year over year.
- Students reported high satisfaction with the summer programs, along with substantial skill building.
- Families believe summer programs provide emotional and academic support.
Despite a number of successes, common challenges also emerged from the cohort:
- Programs struggled to hire and retain qualified staff.
- Programs need sufficient resources to pursue quality improvement strategies including program planning, staff training and program implementation strategies.
- Programs were not successful in their attempts to implement a valid and reliable academic assessment.
Coming out of the study, the following recommendations emerged for community based summer programs:
- Foster better communication between school year and summer programs.
- Rely on academic scales of the Summer Learning Program Quality Assessment for academic assessment.
- Develop better systems of matching students with best-fit programs.
- Support programs to secure the staff and resources needed to deliver quality programs.
- Maintain value of enrichment and exploratory learning.