Summer school has been suggested as a necessary component of a school district's plan to end social promotion and increase student learning by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Federation of Teachers and a host of individuals. The high price tag associated with providing summer programs leaves schools wondering if summer school really works.
Recent reviews of research on summer school show that high quality programs can make a difference in student learning (Harrington-Lueker, 2000). Results of the research indicate programs that focus on remedial or accelerated learning have a positive effect on student learning. There is substantial evidence that summer school can help bring many struggling students up to grade level and prevent loss of learning with many others (Denton, 2001; Harrington-Lueker, 2000).
The key to effective summer school programs begins in early planning. Some districts recommend using the entire school year to plan summer programs instead of waiting and rushing in mid spring. Use the extra planning time to hire the best teachers, get parents on board by letting them know the summer program won't simply be a repeat of the school year, and explore your funding options. Develop a high quality program with the basics and options for enrichment. Also build links between the program and the school year; intervention works best when tied to classroom instruction. Keeping the classes small ensures students get individual attention. Boston schools found that a ratio of 10:1 worked out very well for their students and teachers. Finally, develop benchmarks to determine promotion at the end of the program and follow up with intervention during the school year to continue supporting the students who need it (Denton, 2001; Harrington-Lueker, 2000; Eisner, 2000).