Evidence-Based Strategies

Community-based providers of afterschool and summer enrichment programs can help schools achieve learning recovery goals and support acceleration of learning. Decades of research show that programs are uniquely positioned to help meet the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of students, and have strong reach in the communities where schools may be struggling to re-build connections with students.

Evidence-Based Practices for Quality Afterschool & Summer  

  • Fact Sheet: A Summer for Learning and Recovery – Implementing programs in Summer 2021. A factsheet summarizing the benefits and research on summer enrichment programs and the research-based strategies for implementing successful programs.
  • The Evidence Base for Summer Enrichment and Comprehensive Afterschool Opportunities – This site allows users to explore “Investing American Rescue Plan Funds in Well-Designed and Well-Delivered Summer and Afterschool Learning Opportunities Meets the Intent of the Law and Addresses Needed Learning Recovery and Acceleration,” a paper written by Terry K. Peterson, PhD, and Deborah Lowe Vandell, PhD that reviews the evidence base behind summer enrichment and comprehensive afterschool programs addressing “learning loss,” accelerating learning, and expanding opportunities for student success. The findings can support local and state leaders as they seek to address learning loss and acceleration.
  • Planning for Impactful Summer Learning 2021 – Website and report covering what research and best practices tell us about how to have positive impacts and engage young people in summer programming; authored by Terry Peterson, chief counselor to former US Secretary of Education Dick Riley; Jennifer Peck, Partnership for Children and Youth; Chris Smith, Boston and Beyond; and Katie Landes, Georgia Afterschool Network.
  • Key Principles for Expanding Learning to Support Student Re-Engagement — A guide to implementing quality expanded learning programs. See full brief or read the summary.
  • Evidence-Based Considerations for COVID-19 Reopening and Recovery Planning: Briefs from the Wallace Foundation
  • Evidence-Based Interventions: Summer Learning or Enrichment and Comprehensive Afterschool Programs – Website developed for advocates and decision-makers seeking information on afterschool and summer learning as interventions eligible for funding from the American Rescue Plan.
  • Getting to Work on Summer Learning: Recommended Practices for Success, 2nd Edition – A RAND report taking lessons about implementation learned from the National Summer Learning Project—a long-term study of voluntary summer programs that included 900 interviews and observed more than 2,000 hours of classroom and enrichment activities—and distills the data gathered into guidance on how to develop high-quality summer programs.

Evidence of Impact

  • Fact Sheet: Expanding Learning and Supports For All Students Afterschool and Summer Programs Are Essential for Equitable Recovery summarizes the way that afterschool and summer programs accelerate learning with unique academic, social and emotional supports.  
  • Research Brief: The evidence base for afterschool and summer synthesizes findings from nearly two dozen evaluations of afterschool and summer programs that demonstrate the evidence of the positive impact programs have on academics, social and emotional skills and competencies, and overall well-being to help students re-engage in learning and emerge from the pandemic strong, resilient, and hopeful.
  • Research Brief: Outcomes from 21st Century Community Learning Centers summarizes the academic and social and emotional benefits of participation in 21st Century Community Learning Center afterschool and summer programs, drawn from state evaluations of the programs. 21st CCLC grants are administered by state education agencies and funded by the federal government.
  • Every Summer Counts: A Longitudinal Analysis of Outcomes from the National Summer Learning Project – In a five-year study conducted by RAND following close to 6,000 students in five school districts in Boston, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Rochester, and Duval County, Florida, researchers found positive academic gains among randomly assigned program participants compared to the control group. Students who attended summer learning programs for two consecutive summers outperformed control group students in math, language arts, and social and emotional skills.
  • Investing in Successful Summer Programs: A Review of Evidence Under the Every Student Succeeds Act – In this review, RAND highlights 43 summer programs that meet the criteria for the Every Student Succeeds Act's three tiers of evidence—strong, moderate, and promising evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of a program. For example, the report describes Higher Achievement Summer Academy, a six-week, school-based summer program for underserved students that includes academic instruction, electives such as sculpture and martial arts, and weekly field trips. A randomized control trial found that students in the program reported a greater enjoyment of learning and higher likelihood of wanting to attend a competitive high school than their non-participating peers.