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U.S. Department of Education Summer Learning Initiative

About the Summer Learning Initiative

The U.S. Department of Education's 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program launched the Summer Learning Initiative in 2016. The Initiative supports students' academic growth and development during the summer months, and enhances the ability of 21st CCLC program leaders, staff and volunteers to design and manage high-quality programs all year long. Participating states and selected grantees in each state take part in professional learning and coaching to improve their summer programs.

Customized, In-Depth Professional Learning and Coaching

The Summer Learning Initiative applies research-based knowledge to design a professional learning and coaching approach for participating grantees and states. The goal is to help leaders build knowledge, skills and capacity to effectively lead their program development.

Initiative Participants

The first cohort of participants (18 grantees from six states) received professional learning opportunities and coaching throughout 2016-17 that resulted in the design and implementation of successful summer learning programs in 2017. Data from the first cohort helped to refine the Initiative's approach for supporting the second cohort (22 additional grantees, and one additional state) in 2017-18.

Initiative Activities

A team of expert coaches, assigned to specific states, supports activities to build the capacity of program leaders to impact program quality and student outcomes:

  • Targeted on-site trainings: Topics are determined by the state and grantee needs. State coaches also facilitate networking and collaboration.
  • Ongoing coaching and support: Coaches provide support, encouragement and expertise to each grantee, in-person and virtually, throughout the year.
  • Customized virtual summer learning series: Each state cohort joins events on planning, designing assessing and improving their summer learning programs.
  • Webinar sessions: In these virtual events, cohorts from participating states share challenges, best practices and lessons learned from their own journeys.

The coaches and those who designed the Summer Learning Initiative document the work and its impact, and look at possible ways to improve the initiative's technical assistance design.

Knowledge Sharing and Dissemination

The first cohort mentors the second cohort. Members of both cohorts, along with Initiative leaders, plan to present at national, regional and state conferences where best practices in planning and implementing summer learning programs are disseminated to large audiences of out-of-school time practitioners. Much of the information is also shared here on Y4Y!

Department of Education's Impact by the Numbers

Here's what the Summer Learning Initiative accomplished in its first two years:

  • 7 state needs assessments
  • 40 program site needs assessments
  • 17 in-person training presentations developed
  • 65 tools developed
  • 59 on-site training and coaching events
  • 36 virtual technical assistance events
  • 955 hours of in-person technical assistance
  • 900 hours of virtual support
  • 8 Technical Working Group events
  • 36 implementation assessment visits
  • 9 conference presentations highlighting the initiative

What We're Learning

The Summer Learning Initiative was designed to provide professional learning and coaching, and we're assessing the effectiveness of this technical assistance design. We're not only learning about whether the steps to high-quality planning for summer programming work well in the "real world," but we're also getting valuable information from the people doing the work about which areas they excel at and which ones they struggle with. At the same time, the Initiative provides them with timely training and technical assistance well before they begin to implement their programs. The idea is to help programs anticipate challenges early on, during program planning, so they can intentionally design the program to address those challenges while meeting program goals and addressing student needs. That way, summer program staff can focus on delivering a high-quality program that supports student success. Assessing the technical assistance design can help us improve the design for future cohorts.


Importance of Planning

This process definitely helped the grantees organize themselves and think through their summer program well before spring, which is when most have started to plan in the past.

—New Jersey State Coordinator