April 25, 2018
It’s May, and if your 21st CCLC program offers a summer learning program, you’re already far along in the planning process. What’s left?
You’ve been clear all along about why: Research and experience confirm that much of the academic achievement gap between children from lower- and higher-income families is due to summer learning loss — loss of academic knowledge and skills while students aren’t in school, especially in reading and math.
You know what you’re going to focus on to prevent summer learning loss, and how. Depending on student needs, you’re probably planning to combine academic enrichment with fun activities or an engaging theme.
You know who you’re targeting: which students in your program and partner school especially need support to hold on to academic learning and retain skills related to attentiveness, organization and interpersonal relationships.
But, if you’re like many 21st CCLC program leaders, you wonder how to make sure those young people show up. It can be harder to recruit and retain students for the summer session than for school-term sessions.
One effective way to plan for recruitment is to look at the barriers students and families face. Then target your messages to address those barriers. For example:
Barrier: Parents and students confuse your summer learning program with “summer school,” which they might associate with failure.
Message: Emphasize that your 21st CCLC summer program isn’t “school.” Students are invited, not forced, to attend.
Barrier: Some parents think their child deserves to rest and have fun after a long, hard school year.
Message: List the program’s fun activities. Remind families that interacting with other children and caring adults is more fun and valuable than staying home alone with video games.
Barrier: Parents worry about practical matters, such as safety, transportation, timing and cost.
Message: Describe how you intend to address these practical concerns. For example, working parents can be drawn to a full-day program that offers breakfast and lunch.
Barrier: Caregivers might think they can teach the child at home using workbooks and online games.
Message: Let parents know that your summer program is designed and implemented by professional educators. They know how to create enjoyable activities that will keep students’ minds and bodies active while school is out.
How will you get these messages across? Every way you can! Use posters, public announcements, and send flyers home with students — more than once. Some of those flyers may stay crumpled in the bottom of the backpack until August, so you’ll need a variety of strategies:
- Speak to families in person at pick-up.
- Call or send a text.
- Visit homes.
- Recruit school staff to help. Most families see school teachers, principals and counselors as trusted messengers.
The Y4Y Summer Learning Youth Recruitment Planner can help you identify recruitment strategies, action steps, needed materials, team assignments and due dates. There’s room for you to write in and track additional strategies that will work for your families and students.
With intentional messages, delivered in a variety of ways, you can make sure that many students benefit from the summer program you and your staff have so carefully planned. Thanks for all you do to make it happen!