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Toolkit

Resources to Support Summer Learning

A collection of research, guidance, and tools for families and educators to support summer and extended learning programs and activities.
young girl reading book outside in summer
Published: 06/03/2021

Research shows that students benefit from quality summer and extended learning experiences, especially students from low-income communities who typically lack resources to extend their education beyond the school day. 

We've curated this list of resources from trusted organizations and partners to help educators, families, and school and district leaders create quality out-of-school learning experiences for all.

What the Research Says

A Summer Like No Other: Lessons from the Field During COVID-19
The National Summer Learning Association conducted focus groups and in-depth interviews with 21 summer learning leaders to learn lessons and best practices from summer 2020 during the midst of COVID-19.

Preparing for Back to School and Navigating Summer in the Time of COVID-19
After six months in a COVID-19 world, with the continued uncertainty of when things will return to normal, this brief from the National Summer Learning Association, combines findings from a survey of parents along with the second in a series of surveys of afterschool and summer providers to monitor the state of the after-school field. 

Learning Heroes Actionable Research
Parents are the experts on their child. Teachers are the experts on learning. Working together, they can form a shared understanding of what a child needs for success. Learning Heroes shares actionable insights from research with thousands of parents, educators, and students to help bring parents in as a full partners in their children's learning. 

Restarting and Reinventing School: Learning in the Time of COVID and Beyond
Across the United States, state education agencies and school districts face daunting challenges and difficult decisions for restarting schools as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. As state and district leaders prepare for what schooling will look like in 2020 and beyond, there is an opportunity to identify evidence-based policies and practices that will enable them to seize this moment to rethink school in ways that can transform learning opportunities for students and teachers alike.

Every Summer Counts: A Longitudinal Analysis of Outcomes from the National Summer Learning Project
The National Summer Learning Project (NSLP) examined the implementation and effectiveness of voluntary summer learning programs developed by five school districts — Boston, Massachusetts; Dallas, Texas; Duval County, Florida; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Rochester, New York — and their local community partners. 

High-Quality Out-of-School-Time Programs Are Worthy of Investment
Out-of-school-time (OST) programs, offered after school and during the summer, are intended to provide youth a safe space to go with adult supervision and a set of enrichment experiences that help youth build background knowledge, explore interests and develop skills. However, access to these opportunities is not equitably distributed. In a recent analysis of rigorous cause-and-effect research, we find the research base is clear: High-quality OST programs can benefit youth and tend to produce outcomes linked to program content.

Teachers Lost Out on Professional Learning During the Pandemic. Here's How Summer Programs Could Help
Academic summer programs for students that also offer professional learning opportunities for teachers might be one way that teachers could make up for lost time. But little is known about teacher professional learning in such programs. Our just-released study shows how summer teaching opportunities can be structured in ways that give teachers a chance to experiment, try out new student-centered ways of teaching, and get feedback on their practice.

SEL + OST = Perfect Together: A Conference Report
Afterschool, summer, and other out-of-school-time programs can be ideal settings for children to learn and build social and emotional well-being—when skilled and trusted adults are there to guide them, according to this conference report.

Spring Forward Summer Learning Program Quality Assessment Case Study
This brief highlights the findings of a program quality assessment from a collaboration between the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) and Spring Forward, a nonprofit based in Rock Island, Illinois, that provides educational and enrichment opportunities at no cost to enhance the lives of families in the community. 

State of Summer Learning: 2020 State Policy Snapshot
COVID-19 has illuminated the nation’s inequities in our school systems and communities like never before, shining a spotlight on the significant digital divide, food insecurities, childcare issues, and learning losses millions of underserved students and their families actually face every summer and into the school year. Now more than ever, essential funding investments and policy support, are critical to helping communities leverage the summer and afterschool programs to help students catch up on unfinished learning and thrive during an extraordinarily challenging school year.

America After 3PM
Summer can be a game-changer for young people; a time for family vacations, new friendships, new adventures in camps and summer learning programs, or taking summer classes to catch up or get ahead in school. But the America After 3PM survey finds that for every child in a summer program, there’s another waiting to get in.

It Is Time for Free, Healthy School Meals for All Students
On behalf of its more than 3 million members, the National Education Association (NEA) fully supports the initiative to provide healthy school meals for all students at no cost to them.  When students have access to healthy and nutritious meals, they show up to school energized, focused, and ready to learn.

Top 10 Reasons to Support Free Healthy School Meals for All
In this guest blog post, Dr. Janet Poppendieck, Urban School Food Alliance Advisory Council Member, highlights 10 key reasons to support free healthy school meals for all.

Summer — A Time for Learning: Five Lessons From School Districts and Their Partners About Running Successful Programs
For more than a century, researchers have known that students lose ground over the summer. Yet insights about solutions for the loss have been slower to emerge. That is beginning to change, owing in part to The Wallace Foundation’s $60 million National Summer Learning Project. Launched in 2011, it included five urban districts and their partners, and a wide-ranging study by the RAND Corporation that is the largest ever undertaken on summer learning. This Wallace Perspective distills key lessons from that work for district leaders, out-of-school time providers and intermediaries, and funders to consider.

Tools for Educators

Learning Heroes End of Year Parent Teacher Planning Tool
This tool helps teachers with end of year parent conversations as well as year-round family engagement resources that promote two-way partnership grounded in trust and culturally responsive practices.

Learning Heroes Summer ReCharge
After this year, teachers and families deserve (and need) a REcharge. Developed by the nonprofit organization Learning Heroes and informed by teacher and educator research, Summer REcharge helps parents and teachers co-create a simple plan to maximize student progress and refuel passion and purpose.

SSLS Summer Learning and Out-of-School Time Resource Guide
This flyer/handout is the National Summer Learning Association's collection of best summer learning and out-of-school time resources.

National Summer Learning Association Webinar Series
The National Summer Learning Association's webinar archive includes valuable conversations around topics including summer youth employment, reimagining summer school, equity in summer program training and design, out-of-school time programs, and many more.

Summer Learning Resource Library from National Geographic
Find ideas for getting kids involved in summer learning initiatives. Help them retain the knowledge they gained through the school year.

Get Ready for Summer! Ideas for Teachers to Share with Families
Reading Rockets has packed a "virtual beach bag" of activities for teachers to help families get ready for summer and to launch students to fun, enriching summertime experiences. Educators will find materials to download and distribute as well as ideas and resources to offer to students and parents to help ensure summer learning gain rather than loss.

Resources for Parents and Families

Learning Heroes Readiness Check
Get a quick gut check on how your child is doing with key math and reading skills. Find activities and videos and more to keep learning all summer!

Learning Heroes Summer ReCharge
After this year, teachers and families deserve (and need) a REcharge. Developed by the nonprofit organization Learning Heroes and informed by teacher and educator research, Summer REcharge helps parents and teachers co-create a simple plan to maximize student progress and refuel passion and purpose.

Summer Learning Resources for Parents
School's over, but that doesn't mean that kids need to stop learning or reading! Summer is a great time for kids to read what they enjoy and to learn in new kinds of environments. Learn more from Colorín Colorado's summer reading resources!

Get Serious About Summer Reading
When it comes to summer, reading may not be the first thing—or even in the top 10 things—kids have in mind! But reading can be the ideal summer activity. It’s fun, portable, can involve the whole family, and will help your child academically. Use these resources to launch a summer of reading.

A Family Guide to Reading Resources and Strategies
The pandemic created an unprecedented interruption to school-based learning experiences provided by professional educators. The timing and extent of these closings intensifies summer learning loss, which disproportionately affects low-income students who are already vulnerable to falling behind their classmates. The purpose of this guide is to provide information on resources and strategies to keep students engaged in reading activities to help minimize the effects of the COVID slide.

Summer Learning Resource Library from National Geographic
Find ideas for getting kids involved in summer learning initiatives. Help them retain the knowledge they gained through the school year.

5 Ways to Keep Kids Engaged and Learning at Home
If you are looking for ways to keep your kids engaged during this impromptu time off, 4‑H offers learning resources that are hands-on, fun and engaging.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at the Sea
Summertime…and children are at play at the ocean, sifting through sand, scooping up buckets of water, and chasing the waves. You’d be surprised at how much science and math children are learning as they play!

5 Easy Ways to Roll in a Little Math While You're on the Go This Summer
Math at the playground, during a road trip, while packing a picnic, on the beach, or while taking a hike.

Museums and Libraries for Summer Fun and Learning
Libraries and museums are trusted and family-friendly attractions that are located all across the country.  More than ever, they are becoming an integral part of many communities’ plans to ensure that important early learning experiences are available to all children and their families.

Tips to Keep Tweens and Teens Learning During the Summer
No matter their age, it’s important for ALL kids to keep learning over the summer. Here are some ways to keep your tween or teen learning over the summer.

Toys as Tools: Everyday Science Experiences
Simple toys and tools can engage children as they explore natural phenomena in ways that will support their later science learning. Adults who allow children to play and work through small difficulties by themselves support children as they build an understanding of how the world works. Resist the temptation to “fix it” or “make it go faster” or “use it the right way,” and you will build your child’s self-confidence and problem-solving ability.

Learning at Home: Family Activities for Summer
NEA in partnership with WETA public television provides concrete ideas about keeping children engaged and learning throughout the summer, whether they're interested in reading, science, art, nature, history, current events, or almost anything else.

Best Free Online Virtual Summer Camps 2021
With summer quickly approaching and events continually being postponed or pushed backed, summer 2021 is looking bleak for children. For families who want to keep their children's education growing over the summer but are worried about being able to afford it. Here are some completely free online summer camps to keep your child's mind active and continuously expanding their knowledge. 

Guidance for Education Leaders

2021 Summer Learning & Enrichment: State Guidance for District and School Leaders
The 2021 Summer Learning & Enrichment: State Guidance for District and School Leaders offers state education agencies (SEA) practical guidance, which they can adapt and share with their local education agencies (LEA) as they plan for summer 2021 learning opportunities to meet the most pressing needs of students and teachers in this uniquely challenging school year. The resources and considerations in this document are based on leading research and evidence-based, best practices for summer learning and closing learning gaps. It also includes guidance on how to use ESSER funding to integrate school and community resources to create innovative summer learning programs.

Policy Considerations for Tutoring
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted schooling across the country, leading to substantial learning loss for students, especially for students living in poverty and from communities of color. We have an urgent and immediate need to provide additional support for K-12 students to ensure they are well prepared for the future. Research shows that high-impact tutoring is one of the most effective academic interventions — providing an average of more than four months of additional learning in elementary literacy and almost 10 months of additional learning in high school math.

Supporting Summer Programs: Navigating Federal, State, and Local Program Support Opportunities
RAND researchers sought to better understand how summer learning program leaders can efficiently and effectively find their way through a complex policy landscape. This brief summarizes the results of the study and presents recommendations for summer program leaders to consider.

Getting Support for Summer Learning: How Federal, State, City, and District Policies Affect Summer Learning Programs
This report offers information on public policies that support, or constrain, summer learning efforts—and guidance to organizers of such efforts to help them secure and maintain support for their programs.

Investing in Successful Summer Programs
This report from the RAND Corporation (commissioned by The Wallace Foundation) explores what characteristics of summer programs meet ESSA evidence standards, and what characteristics of summer programs meet ESSA evidence standards. 

Afterschool & Summer in the Time of COVID-19
The afterschool field is an essential part of communities' response to the coronavirus pandemic. This page includes a variety of helpful resources from the Afterschool Alliance.

National Summer Learning Association Webinar Series
The National Summer Learning Association's webinar archive includes valuable conversations around topics including summer youth employment, reimagining summer school, equity in summer program training and design, out-of-school time programs, and many more.

Smarter Summers. Brighter Futures. A Summer Playbook for PTA and School Leaders
With this Playbook, PTAs, along with teachers and principals, will have a robust and research-based toolkit to keep youth safe, healthy, and engaged in learning during the critical summer months.

Summer Learning: A Bridge to Student Success and America's Recovery, a COVID-19 Playbook
The purpose of this playbook is to provide a long-term, comprehensive, and sustainable framework for planning, collaborating, and executing evidence-based practices and partnerships for high-quality summer and out-of-school time (OST) experiences.

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A mom and young son read a book on the floor of his bedroom

Help for Families During COVID-19

Families play a key role in helping students avoid the "COVID-19 slide." We've curated a collection of helpful resources and fun activities designed to keep at-home learners engaged and growing.
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Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.