New NWEA Report Provides Practical and Actionable Guidance for Effective Summer Programs

Research highlights 10 critical recommendations for achieving positive student outcomes and closing pandemic-related achievement gaps

Portland, Ore. — June 18, 2024 NWEA, a K-12 assessment and research organization, announced today a new report on the effectiveness of summer programs in helping mitigate learning loss, often called the “summer slide,” and boosting academic recovery in the wake of pandemic-related learning disruptions. The report dives into the research on summer programs, their implementation and design, as well as the efficacy of those programs for literacy, math, and social-emotional learning (SEL) outcomes.

“The impacts of the pandemic’s disruption to learning are still being felt. Our latest data estimates students would need, on average, an additional 4.5 months of mathematics instruction and 4.1 months of reading instruction to recover in these two subjects. Many districts have turned to summer programs as a key recovery strategy, and these programs are promising if they are well-designed and well-attended,” said Dr. Miles Davison, Research Scientist at NWEA and one of the authors of the new report. “Given the sunsetting of ESSER funding, it is particularly important that school districts have information on how to optimize the effectiveness of these programs.”

Because of the rise in usage of summer programs, NWEA researchers evaluated the current studies and identified 10 recommendations district leaders should consider regarding their design and implementation:

  1. Districts should offer summer programs for a minimum of four weeks.
  2. Summer programs should include small class sizes and targeted instruction.
  3. Summer instruction should be delivered by qualified staff.
  4. Staff should enter summer programs prepared with familiar curricular tools.
  5. Relationship building should be a key component of summer programs.
  6. Summer programs should incorporate enrichment that includes diverse resources.
  7. Districts should incorporate culturally relevant activities during the summer.
  8. Summer programs should be free and provide transportation and meals.
  9. Summer programs should prioritize family communication to promote student participation.
  10. Summer program staff should communicate with families to highlight student achievements and address challenges.

The new report also highlights the positive outcomes that have been observed across various research, including improving early-grade literacy for low-income students, boosting mathematics across student characteristics and ability levels, and the potential to improve SEL outcomes and student participation in multiple summer sessions. By focusing on these targeted outcomes and incorporating the key design features, summer programs can be a powerful tool in preventing learning loss and helping students recover from missed learning opportunities during the pandemic.

Read the full report:

About NWEA

NWEA® (a division of HMH) is a mission-driven organization that supports students and educators in more than 146 countries through research, assessment solutions, policy and advocacy, and professional learning that support our diverse educational communities. Visit to learn more about how we’re partnering with educators to help all kids learn.

Contact: Simona Beattie, Communications Director, or 971.361.9526