A key strategy that school districts embraced for turning around learning loss post-pandemic has been summer learning, with more than 40 percent of school districts investing federal Covid-relief aid into such programs.
A new study suggests the added time on task in the summer of 2022 resulted in gains in math, but not reading. Researchers associated with the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER), Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), and Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) drew on data from the Road to Recovery project which is a collaboration among researchers and school districts to study academic recovery interventions.
Eight school districts with a total of about 400,000 students provided data on NWEA MAP Growth assessments for the spring of 2022 and fall of 2022, as well as information about program characteristics, student eligibility and program participation. The researchers found that summer school programming closed about 2 to 3 percent of school districts’ learning losses in math, with the strongest gains in the upper elementary grades. They found no significant impact on reading. Student performance still fell behind pre-pandemic levels for those grades.
The gains would have been stronger, the researchers said, if all students had participated in the summer programs. Instead, about 13 percent took part. Also, many of the programs offered fewer days or less time for instruction than researchers recommend. The districts provided between 15 and 20 days of programming, with six of the eight districts meeting four days a week. Academic instruction ranged from 23 to 67 hours, less than the 75 hours recommended in past studies.
The findings suggest that summer learning can be a tool for closing learning gaps, but that districts should encourage greater participation and more intensive academic instruction in the programs.