Students working in a garden
February 29, 2016
New Study: Quality Summer Programs Prevent Summer Learning Loss
By Juliet Taylor
Program Officer, Raikes Foundation

Since 2011, the Raikes Foundation in collaboration with School’s Out Washington (SOWA) has worked to improve the quality of out-of-school time programs serving youth in Washington state. During this time, we’ve partnered with organizations to establish a clear, measurable definition of quality, a continuous improvement process to help programs achieve quality, and professional development opportunities to empower front-line staff interacting with youth. More recently, the tools have been adapted to meet the specific needs of summer learning OST programs. In Washington, communities are already making deep investments in summer learning to improve academic outcomes, and we hope even more summer programs will work to strengthen their quality in the future.

To better-understand this connection between quality summer programs and academic outcomes, we recently partnered with Seattle Public Schools (SPS), the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, and SOWA to conduct a study of SPS’s summer programs. The study was conducted in 30 summer learning programs at 11 schools in Seattle during summer 2015 program. Results (available for download here) showed a clear link between the quality of summer learning programs and the academic outcomes they produce. This is one of the first studies of its kind and demonstrates several important findings: 

  • Quality Matters: Like early learning and K-12 education settings, the benefits youth receive from out-of-school time (OST) programs hinge on the quality of the program. Simply put, higher quality programs produce better academic outcomes.
  • Quality OST Programs Combat Summer Learning Loss: Most youth participating in the programs studied showed improved math and literacy skills during the summer. This stands in contrast to the proven learning loss students experience when not engaged in educational opportunities during the summer. 
  • SPS’s High-Quality Programs Keep Kids Coming Back: SPS summer programs were well attended and demonstrated high levels of quality compared to programs in other cities. 

Given the promising results of this initial study, it is likely that we will deepen our learning this coming summer by using a control group to examine growth in matched peers as well as dig in more deeply to document the specific practices that high quality programs are using to support positive outcomes.