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REL Central Ask A REL Response

Beating the Odds

March 2021


What is the effectiveness of summer school or an extended school year in improving math, reading, or social and emotional knowledge or skills?


Following an established research protocol, REL Central conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles to help answer the question. The resources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic databases, and general Internet search engines. (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. We have not evaluated the quality of the references provided in this response, and we offer them only for your information. We compiled the references from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant sources may exist.

Research References

Augustine, C. H., Sloan McCombs, J., Pane, J. F., Schwartz, H. L., Schweig, J., McEachin, A., & Siler-Evans, K. (2016). Learning from summer: Effects of voluntary summer learning programs on low-income urban youth. RAND Corporation. Retrieved from
Full text available from

From the website abstract:

“The National Summer Learning Project, launched by the Wallace Foundation in 2011, includes an assessment of the effectiveness of voluntary, district-led summer learning programs offered at no cost to low-income, urban elementary students. The study, conducted by RAND, uses a randomized controlled trial and other analytic methods to assess the effects of district-led programs on academic achievement, social-emotional competencies, and behavior over the near and long term. All students in the study were in the third grade as of spring 2013 and enrolled in a public school in one of five urban districts: Boston; Dallas; Duval County, Florida; Pittsburgh; or Rochester, New York. The study follows these students from third to seventh grade; this report describes outcomes through fifth grade. The primary focus is on academic outcomes but students’ social-emotional outcomes are also examined, as well as behavior and attendance during the school year. Among the key findings are that students with high attendance in one summer benefited in mathematics and that these benefits persisted through the following spring; students with high attendance in the second summer benefited in mathematics and language arts and in terms of social-emotional outcomes; and that high levels of academic time on task led to benefits that persisted in both mathematics and language arts.”

Griebling, S., & Gilbert, J. (2020). Examining the value of a summer kindergarten transitioning program for children, families, and schools. School Community Journal, (30)1, 191–208. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“The transition to more formal schooling in kindergarten can be difficult for young children and their families. However, preparing children for this transition can produce positive results. This article examines the qualitative results of a four- to six-week transition program for 715 children. Data include parent and school surveys as well as school personnel reports and discussions from two years of the program, involving two separate groups of children. This qualitative data suggested positive affects for children’s social/emotional readiness for school. Children who attended the program became leaders in the classroom and experienced less anxiety. Because the transitions in the start of the school year were easier, teachers had more instructional time with the children early in the school year. Children with special needs received more support, and families became connected with the schools on multiple levels. Parents developed friendships with other families and overall felt less anxious about their child starting school.”

Houston Independent School District. (2019). Summer school education program: 2018–2019. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract:

“Each year, the Houston Independent School District (HISD) offers a summer education program designed to assist students with a variety of instructional needs. Centrally coordinated summer school programs in 2019 included accelerated instruction for State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) and STAAR End-of-Course (EOC) re-testers; bilingual or English as Second Language (ESL) classes for English Learners (ELs); credit accrual/recovery for students needing to graduate; Extended School Year (ESY) services; Promotion/Retention classes; and other school-based programs. The summer education program supports HISD’s Board Goal 3: Academic Growth. This report shows student enrollment and outcomes for students who attended summer school in 2019 based on either retention status at the end of spring 2019, or for other reasons, such as academic enrichment.”

Kaplan, C., Farbman, D. A., Deich, S., & Padgette, H. C. (2014). Financing expanded learning time in schools: A look at five district-expanded time schools. National Center on Time & Learning; Wallace Foundation. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract:

“Over the last several years, public education in the U.S. has experienced a remarkable growth in the number of schools that have expanded their schedules beyond the conventional calendar of 180 6.5-hour days. Spurred by significant policy activity at the federal, state, and local levels, more and more educators have capitalized on opportunities to increase their school days and years to put in place a host of whole-school strategies that aim to improve educational quality and outcomes. In its latest count, National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL) identified over 1,500 of these schools, about 900 of which are district (i.e., non-charter) schools. The educators implementing these reforms at schools serving more than half a million students–the vast majority of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds–believe that having more time in productive learning environments, offers the potential for a higher quality education and a stronger future. Today, the many district schools that have undergone a conversion to expanded school time (or that were established with a longer day and/or year) offer the field of education a valuable supply of information about how such expansion can be implemented despite inevitable challenges around financing, programming, and staffing. Indeed, educators and policymakers seeking to generate school improvement through expanded time would do well to learn from those who have engaged in such efforts before them. They also would benefit from understanding the wide variety of ways in which district schools have implemented, paid for, and structured expanded school time, if only to appreciate that there is no single model or set of models that defines the field. This finance study is produced by NCTL, in partnership with the educational consulting group Cross & Joftus. Taking a careful look at five different models of expanded-time district schools, this study unpacks the realities of implementing more school time–the funding sources, challenges, and opportunities–from financial and educational perspectives. The authors examine both these aspects because they are inextricably linked, and one cannot understand financing without describing the programming and staffing that the dollars pay for. Their hope is that these brief case studies, together with the analysis of common themes and key findings, will offer several cost models and provide some preliminary answers to the question of how schools and districts pay for expanded learning time. The five case studies include: (1) Griffith Elementary School (Balsz, Arizona); (2) Dr. Orlando Edreira Academy (Elizabeth, New Jersey); (3) McGlone Elementary School (Denver, Colorado); (4) Elmhurst Community Prep (Oakland, California); and (5) Orchard Gardens K–8 Pilot School (Boston, Massachusetts).”

Kidron, Y., & Lindsay, J. (2014). The effects of increased learning time on student academic and nonacademic outcomes: Findings from a meta-analytic review (REL 2014–015). U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Appalachia. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract:

“REL Appalachia conducted a systematic review of the research evidence on the effects of increased learning time. After screening more than 7,000 studies, REL Appalachia identified 30 that met the most rigorous standards for research. A review of those 30 studies found that increased learning time does not always produce positive results. However, some forms of instruction tailored to the needs of specific types of students were found to improve their circumstances. Specific findings include: (1) Increased learning time promoted student achievement in mathematics and literacy when instruction was led by a certified teacher and when teachers used a traditional instructional style (i.e., the teacher is responsible for the progression of activities and students follow directions to complete tasks); (2) Increased learning time improved literacy outcomes for students performing below standards; and (3) Increased learning time improved social-emotional skills of students with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.”

Kidron, Y., & Lindsay, J. (2014). Stated briefly: What does the research say about increased learning time and student outcomes? (REL 2015–061). U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Appalachia. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract:

“REL Appalachia conducted a systematic review of the research evidence on the effects of increased learning time. After screening more than 7,000 studies, REL Appalachia identified 30 that met the most rigorous standards for research. A review of those 30 studies found that increased learning time does not always produce positive results. However, some forms of instruction tailored to the needs of specific types of students were found to improve their circumstances. Findings suggest that the impacts of these programs depend on the settings, implementation features, and types of students targeted. This ‘Stated Briefly’ report is a companion piece that summarizes the results of another report entitled ‘The effects of increased learning time on students’ academic and nonacademic outcomes,’ released on July 9, 2014.”

Poppink, S., Ma, X., & Shen, J. (2019). The effects of organizing teaching by time, student grouping, and professional staffing: A national study of student outcomes by urban, suburban and rural schools. Journal of International Education and Leadership, 9(2), 1–31. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“For this study, we examined the constructs of time, student groupings, and professional staffing in schools and determined their significance in whether or not schools made Adequate Yearly Progress or were required mandatory improvement. We conducted a logistical regression analysis using a national data set, the School and Staffing Survey (2007–2008). We explored 15 predictor variables and found 10 variables had either positive or negative significance: longer school day, earlier start time, block scheduling, traditional and non-traditional departments, subdivided grades, looping, multi-age grouping, reading coaches, mathematics coaches, and science coaches.”

Pyne, J., Messner, E., & Dee, T. S. (2020). The dynamic effects of a summer learning program on behavioral engagement in school (CEPA Working Paper No. 20-10). Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“The evidence that student learning declines sharply (or stagnates) during the summer has motivated a substantial interest in programs that provide intensive academic instruction during the summer. However, the existing literature suggests that such programs, which typically focus on just one or two subjects, have modest effects on students’ achievement and no impact on measures of their engagement in school. In this quasi-experimental study, we present evidence on the educational impact of a unique and mature summer learning program that serves low-income middle school students and features unusual academic breadth and a social emotional curriculum with year-to-year scaffolding. Our results indicate that this program led to substantial reductions in unexcused absences, chronic absenteeism and suspensions and a modest gain in ELA test scores. We find evidence that the gains in behavioral engagement grow over time and with additional summers of participation. Our results also suggest that these effects were particularly concentrated among boys and Latinx students.”

Sloan McCombs, J., Augustine, C. H., Schwartz, H. L., Bodilly, S. J., McInnis, B., Lichter, D. S., & Brown Cross, A. (2012). Making summer count: How summer programs can boost children’s learning. Education Digest: Essential Readings Condensed for Quick Review, 77(6), 47–52. Retrieved from
Full text available from

From the ERIC abstract:

“During summer vacation, many students lose knowledge and skills. By the end of summer, students perform, on average, one month behind where they left off in the spring. Participation in summer learning programs should mitigate learning loss and could even produce achievement gains. Indeed, educators and policymakers increasingly promote summer learning as a key strategy to improve the achievement of low-performing students. Rigorous studies have shown that strong summer programs can achieve several important goals: (1) reverse summer learning loss; (2) achieve learning gains; and (3) give low-performing students the chance to master material that they did not learn during the school year. The authors recommend that districts and other providers invest in staffing and planning for summer learning programs, actively incorporate practices that will help ensure the success of programs, and maximize the benefits of partnerships and a variety of funding sources. They also offer recommendations for policymakers and funders who are interested in supporting summer learning programs.”

Wolf, P. J., & Lasserre-Cortez, S. (2018). An exploratory analysis of features of New Orleans charter schools associated with student achievement growth (REL 2018–287). U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract:

“In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the number of charter schools in New Orleans has rapidly expanded. During the 2012/13 school year–the period covered by this study–of the 85 public schools in New Orleans, 75 were chartered, enrolling more than 84 percent of all public school students in the city in 92 different school campuses. This study explored organizational, operational, and instructional features of New Orleans charter schools serving grades 3–8 that are potential indicators of student achievement growth in English language arts (ELA), math, and science. The organizational characteristic of kindergarten provided as an entry grade was associated with higher levels of [value-added measures] VAM on the ELA test. The operational characteristic of an extended school year also was associated with higher levels of ELA VAM. The instructional characteristics of a lower percentage of teachers with graduate degrees, more experienced teachers, and a lower student/teacher ratio were associated with higher levels of ELA VAM. The analysis revealed fewer potential key indicators of charter school effectiveness regarding VAM in math and science. The inclusion of kindergarten as an entry grade was the only school feature that was statistically significant in its association with math VAM; schools with kindergarten were correlated with higher math VAM scores. Having a lower student/teacher ratio and fewer staff in student support roles were the only school features that were statistically significant in their association with higher science VAM scores. None of these associations between potential key indicators and math and science VAM scores remained statistically significant when estimated using 2013/14 outcome data, indicating that the results are not robust to such an additional analysis. Offering kindergarten as an entry grade and having a lower teacher/student ratio were the only potential key indicators with statistically significant associations with more than one VAM outcome. Having kindergarten as an entry grade was positively associated with ELA and math VAM. Having a lower teacher/student ratio was associated with higher ELA and science VAM.”

Zhao, H., McGaughey, T. A., & Wade, J. (2014). Supporting students through participation in the Regional High School Summer School Program. Montgomery County Public Schools. Retrieved from

From the executive summary:

“The Office of Shared Accountability (OSA) in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) conducted a study of the MCPS Regional High School Summer School Program. The study examined who participated in the 2011–2013 summer school program, how they performed in the courses, how many of them passed October High School Assessments (HSAs), and how many of them graduated or dropped out. In addition, the study examined perspectives of students and staff in Session 1 of the 2013 summer school program based on student and staff surveys. The results of this study may be used to identify areas for improvement.”

Additional Resources

What Works Clearinghouse. (2013). WWC review of the report “Summer school effects in a randomized field trial”. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract:

“The study reviewed in this report examined the impact of a summer literacy program on kindergarten and first-grade students who were at moderate risk for reading difficulties in one Pacific Northwest school district. The study took place through a limited expansion of an existing summer program for high-risk students that was modified to include moderate-risk students. Study authors randomly assigned 49 kindergarten students (25 intervention, 24 comparison) and 51 first-grade students (26 intervention, 25 comparison) identified as moderate-risk to either an intervention group that was invited to participate in the summer reading program, or a comparison group that did not receive the intervention. The final analytic sample consisted of 46 kindergarten students (24 intervention, 22 comparison) and 47 first-grade students (23 intervention, 24 comparison). The study found, and the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) confirmed, a statistically significant positive effect of the summer school intervention on student outcomes in the fall of the implementation year for students in both kindergarten (effect size on the alphabetic assessment = 0.69) and first grade (effect size on the reading fluency assessment = 0.61). The research described in this report meets WWC evidence standards without reservations.”

What Works Clearinghouse. (2016). Summer bridge programs. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract:

“‘Summer bridge programs’ are designed to ease the transition to college and support postsecondary success by providing students with the academic skills and social resources needed to succeed in a college environment. These programs occur in the summer ‘bridge’ period between high school and college. Although the content of summer bridge programs can vary across institutions and by the population served, they typically last 2-4 weeks and involve (a) an in-depth orientation to college life and resources, (b) academic advising, (c) training in skills necessary for college success (e.g., time management and study skills), and/or (d) accelerated academic coursework. The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) identified one study of ‘summer bridge programs’ that both falls within the scope of the Supporting Postsecondary Success topic area and meets WWC group design standards. This study meets WWC group design standards with reservations. The study included 2,222 undergraduate students enrolled at Georgia Tech. Based on the study, ‘summer bridge programs’ were found to have potentially positive effects on postsecondary attainment for postsecondary students.”

Additional Resources to Consult

National Center on Time & Learning:

From the website:

“The National Center on Time & Learning has been dedicated to expanding and improving learning time in school to improve student achievement and enable a well-rounded education.”


Keywords and Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • “Continuous learning”
  • “Extended school year”
  • “Extended school year” + effectiveness
  • “Extended school year” + literacy
  • “Extended school year” + math
  • “Extended school year” + reading
  • “Extended school year” + “social emotional”
  • “Increased learning time”
  • “Longer school year”
  • “Summer learning”
  • “Summer school” + effectiveness
  • “Summer school” + literacy
  • “Summer school” + math
  • “Summer school” + reading
  • “Summer school” + “social emotional”
  • Time factors (learning)

Databases and Resources

REL Central searched ERIC for relevant references. ERIC is a free online library, sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences, of over 1.6 million citations of education research. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and Google.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When searching for and reviewing references, REL Central considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the Publication: The search and review included references published between 2011 and 2021.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority was given to ERIC, followed by Google Scholar and Google.
  • Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were used in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types, such as randomized controlled trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive analyses, and literature reviews; and (b) target population and sample.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Central Region (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Central at Marzano Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Central under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0005, administered by Marzano Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.