By Jill Barshay
Many education researchers have warned that summer school doesn’t have a strong track record of helping students catch up academically. That’s because it’s hard to convince families to show up. In the wake of the pandemic, school leaders spent billions more on it anyway. In a 2022 national survey, 70% of school districts said they had launched new summer programs or expanded existing ones. Los Angeles Unified District superintendent Alberto Carvalho called summer school “critical” to addressing learning loss.
But now, in a scientific version of “We told you so,” a group of 14 researchers from Harvard University, the American Institutes for Research and the assessment company NWEA found miniscule gains in math and no improvement in reading at all after scrutinizing how much 2022 summer school helped children in eight large school districts around the nation. A separate study in Tennessee, also looking back at the summer of 2022, found the same tiny learning gains in math but none in reading.