Summer learning programs: An overview
Summer programs can aid in learning recovery and acceleration
teacher works with young students

Summer learning programs support accelerated learning and encourage positive youth development, career development and even college preparation. While summer learning programs are optional for districts and county offices of education (COE), they can provide opportunities for students to practice essential skills and make academic progress — something especially important as local educational agencies focus on learning recovery and acceleration for students who experienced learning loss during school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many district and county office boards recognize that an extended break from instructional classroom days may result in significant learning loss, especially among underserved and low-achieving students. Key findings from an evaluation published by the California Department of Education found that summer learning programs in Fresno, Los Angeles and Sacramento increased participating students’ instructional grade level by over one-third of a grade on the San Diego Quick Assessment, ending the summer with vocabulary skills much closer to their grade level. Similarly, English learners across communities demonstrated statistically significant increases in their grade-level vocabulary skills, a gateway to English language fluency. Parents also reported that summer learning programs help youth prepare for the challenge of transitioning from elementary to middle school, a period when many youths begin to disengage from school.

The purposes and content of an LEA’s summer programs should be aligned with the priorities and goals outlined in its Local Control and Accountability Plan and other applicable school plans. Summer courses should blend academic instruction in core curricular and elective subjects with recreation, nutrition programs, social-emotional development and support services that encourage attendance, student engagement and wellness. Most importantly, an LEA’s summer school program should be used to provide supplemental instruction to students needing remediation or enrichment in core academic subjects. In some circumstances, LEA’s may also utilize summer programs for students who need course credits to graduate from high school, students who have been retained or are at risk of being retained at their grade level, or students who demonstrate academic gaps in core curriculum areas.


Summer learning programs may be funded through a variety of sources such as Title I funding, After School Education and Safety Program supplemental funds, 21st Century Community Learning Center supplemental funds, and the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program. Funding for summer school enrichment programs for TK-6 can be found on CDE’s website at www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ex/elopinfo.

To better accommodate students and guardians, each summer learning program site can be rotated among districts or community facilities in an effort to make summer school programs more accessible to all students, regardless of residence or regular attendance area, and to accommodate the maintenance needs of all collaborating LEAs. For example, one site could host the summer learning program for two-to-four weeks and then switch to another site once a new program commences.


Partnerships outside of the participating school districts/COEs can help to implement a summer learning program. County agencies, community organizations and child care providers can aid in developing, implementing and building awareness of organized activities that support summer learning. Public libraries and community organizations can also help support summer learning by providing information to students and guardians about summer reading programs and the importance of reading at home. Many libraries provide lists of recommended books that students can read over the summer.

LEAs that serve students in grades 9-12 may be interested in collaborating with workforce development agencies or businesses to provide summer job training opportunities that include an academic component or community service opportunities. Some LEAs may even opt to collaborate with local parks and recreation agencies to provide day camps, sports programs or other opportunities for physical education and other recreational activities.

CSBA’s sample Board Policy 6177 – Summer Learning Programs provides a good starting place when considering the use of summer learning programs as part of a long-term strategy for learning acceleration. Although LEAs are not required to have a summer learning program policy, boards may review and choose to adopt this sample language.