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Summer Learning Gains are Real

Posted on Jun 18, 2019, 10:37:51 AM


By now you may have heard or read about researcher Paul von Hippel’s recent Education Next piece questioning the strength of the research behind claims of “summer learning loss (“Is Summer Learning Loss Real?”).

There’s no disputing that for disadvantaged students, huge opportunity gaps exist around access to Pre-K programs, technology, cultural enrichment, the arts, regular exercise, and healthy food. The lack of these opportunities contributes to significant, measurable gaps in children’s vocabulary, academic and social/emotional skills development, and overall health.

We know from decades of experience providing high-quality, intensive, multi-year, enriching interventions to underserved youth that summer learning gains are real. We’ve seen this pay off for students who attend Horizons, and our research backs it up.

In his piece, von Hippel confirms that summer learning is effective in closing achievement gaps – especially when coupled with long-term investments in children and families from low-income communities. In other words, summer gives us a chance to shrink learning gaps, and summer learning programs for disadvantaged children work best when students attend them regularly over several years. This is the approach that Horizons has championed for more than 50 years.

In fact, a recent retrospective study of Horizons offers promising new evidence that Horizons improves student outcomes. The findings are consistent with previous studies that demonstrate summer learning programs for youth from underserved communities can significantly narrow achievement gaps. The study showed that long-term Horizons participants (compared to similar non-participants who attended the same schools) had:

  • Higher attendance rates at school
  • Reduced rates of chronic absenteeism in school
  • Stronger academic achievement outcomes
  • Higher standardized assessments in math and science at the end of elementary school
  • Higher GPAs and the equivalent of one full-year course credit by the end of grade 9
  • Less likelihood of repeating a grade or receiving a disciplinary referral during middle and high school

Horizons looks forward to continuing to bring communities together to use the time and space of summer to make a real difference for kids and families.

Follow us at #6weeksofhappiness to see how we are making gains this summer.