There are many moving parts when planning any program including a summer learning program. Use these seven sequential steps to successfully navigate your way to a summer learning program that has the potential for making positive academic, social, emotional and behavioral impacts on your students.

Click on the steps in the order shown to take the most efficient path for summer program planning. You’ll also get tools to help you along the way.Get ready for your journey.

Before you take the first step, visit the Implementation Planner page to download the Program Implementation Planner, a user guide and a sample planner.

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Program Team

Gather your stakeholders. To plan, design, implement and assess a high-quality summer program, you need a strong program planning team. Include stakeholders from all groups impacted by your program (students, parents, community partners and 21st CCLC staff). Also include school-day leaders (principals, teachers, counselors, and directors of food services and maintenance) to ensure smooth operations and to connect program activities to the school day.


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Needs Assessment...

Identify needs and assets. To design a program that helps students improve, gather needs assessment data at three levels: school (for student attendance, behavior and performance on state assessments), student (so the program can target specific knowledge and skills to impact school-level performance), and student voice (to design engaging activities that make students want to attend). The program team will use this information to develop the program goals and activities. The team can then map assets to identify organizations and resources that can help meet identified needs.

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Make it measurable. To keep program staff motivated, accountable and on track, set program goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound (SMART). Consider needs assessment data, especially student-level and student voice data. Program SMART goals guide the development of activity SMART goals and inform intentional activity design.




It’s in the details. To ensure smooth operations, plan ahead to set appropriate budget amounts for your summer program, identify and secure necessary program space, recruit and hire great staff, plan professional development, have a meal and/or snack program in place, and make all stakeholders aware of the summer program schedule.


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Intentional Activity Design

Design targeted, real-life, relevant activities that meet student needs. To meet program SMART goals, plan activities that meet identified student needs and incorporate student voice. Write your activity SMART goal, and select an engaging learning method and strategies to keep students coming. This intentional design process taps into student-specific needs and student voice to provide targeted academic interventions (which help students improve skills they need) and academic enrichment activities (which help students practice knowledge and skills in real-life, relevant ways). Intentional design also ensures that activities support positive youth development and incorporate 21st century skills.

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Intentional Student Recruitment

Recruit the right students. While all eligible students should be invited to attend, it takes planning to get the right students (those likely to benefit the most) in the right place (your program) at the right time (summer)! When students who specifically need the targeted skills your program offers attend your program and get appropriate support, it’s more likely that you will see positive program and student outcomes.

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Continuous Improvement Process

Keep getting better. Ensuring continuous improvement starts with a logic model that defines long- and short-term goals, participation targets, planned activities and available resources. The program team needs to ensure the program is implemented according to plan and decide how to measure success. The team will determine specifics about which data to collect, how to collect them, how to analyze the data, and how to use the findings to inform and improve program planning and implementation.

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