Summer learning: A meaningful and strategic investment
Every year around the month of June, California students end the school year and begin their summer vacation, providing an opportunity to explore their passions and develop new skills.
This is the ideal version of summer; however, this vision falls short for many students in California.

For middle- and upper-class Americans, summer might entail family vacations, camps and local enrichment programs provided privately or by community-based organizations. However, for low-income families and children, it is typically a different story. For these children, summer is more likely an educational drought — a period when not only are they not learning anything new, but they are actually losing knowledge they gained during the school year.

Providing all students with more learning opportunities during the summer months is one of the most effective strategies to avoid summer learning loss and enhance student academic progress, according to researchers from the RAND Corporation. For example, one study of summer programs in third grade found that participation was associated with higher math and language arts achievement.

CSBA supports a vision of rigorous summer learning programs and, with the support of the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, has created a series of resources to support governance teams in their efforts to strengthen and expand these programs. These resources include guides to program planning and implementation, along with three lesson plans that governance teams can adapt to conduct their own board study session or to learn about these concepts on their own.

The experiences that a student has in the summer can have a lasting impact on their life. For many students, these programs are more than a way to learn academic content. They can create opportunities to interact with accomplished professionals and work on projects that allow them to connect with school in a new way, where they see how it relates to their progress and future aspirations.
— Manuel Buenrostro,
CSBA Education Policy Analyst
According to the National Summer Learning Association, low-income youth lose two to three months in reading skills over the summer. Most students also lose about two months of math skills. These seasonal setbacks add up — low-income students may be up to three years behind their more affluent peers by fifth grade.

  • School boards can help combat “summer slide” through summer learning programs
  • CSBA summer learning resources available
With research pointing to the importance of summer learning in reducing opportunity and achievement gaps, many school districts and county offices of education across California have launched innovative summer programs. In fact, for many school districts and COEs, summer school is no longer just a mandatory exercise where the only objective is for students to catch up, although this is still a valuable objective. For these districts and COEs, summer school has also become an opportunity to provide students with an engaging curriculum that not only reinforces academic content, but that also emphasizes skill development, enrichment activities and the opportunity for students to explore their interests and passions.
Many districts and COEs have also tied these programs to goals for teacher professional development. These programs can be an opportunity for teachers to learn new skills and to teach in new and innovative ways that can be taken back to their classrooms during the regular school year.

It is our hope that governance teams continue to expand on their summer learning programs and leverage them to support their broader district and COE goals.

Please visit CSBA’s webpage for all of our summer learning resources at