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Summer learning attracts attention of National Academies

By Jen Rinehart

Infographic courtesty of the National Summer Learning Association.

In late August, the Board on Children, Youth & Families at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine hosted a day-long workshop focused on summertime opportunities to promote healthy child and adolescent development. Back in 1999, a similar workshop, which focused on Opportunities to Promote Child and Adolescent Development During the After-School Hours, led to the publication of Community Programs to Promote Youth Development, an important resource for funders, policy makers and afterschool practitioners. 

It was great to see the National Academies return attention to the important role of out-of-school time learning. The summertime opportunities workshop highlighted the latest research on summer and explored linkages between summer programs and the broader ecosystem of learning, including schools, museums, libraries and afterschool programs. It was a day of great discussions that reflected the diverse community and accomplishments of summer learning and afterschool programs. 

The workshop featured sessions on the achievement gap, the value of play, reducing obesity, city-systems, program quality and evaluation and role of afterschool and summer in the overall learning ecosystem. A sampling of a few of the organizations on the panels include the Association of Children’s Museums, the Food Research and Action Center, the National League of Cities and the American Institutes for Research. The Afterschool Alliance was glad to included on a panel focusing on ecosystems that support children's development, alongside representatives from the national YMCA and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Better understanding of summer learning on the horizon

The day-long workshop set the stage for a potential effort to produce a “consensus study,” which would provide new information and recommendations to inform federal, state, and local policy decisions about how best to use the summer months to support the healthy development of America's children. With new research out from the RAND Corporation and The Wallace Foundation showing gains in math and reading among elementary school students with high levels of attendance in voluntary summer learning programs, the timing of a more thorough investigation into summer learning by the National Academies could not be better!

The PowerPoint presentations from the workshop are available on the National Academies website and videos of the workshop sessions will be posted to in the next couple of weeks. An 8-page written summary of the workshop proceedings is anticipated to be released in early November, which we will be sure to share with readers.