Stemming summer learning loss for low-income kids

learning-BW“Summer slide” is a widely-documented phenomenon in which students lose educational gains from the school year during the summer months. This slide is especially large for low-income students who lack the kind of enriching opportunities during the summer (e.g., tutors, mentors, books, high quality summer camps, etc.) that their more affluent peers enjoy. Many researchers argue that most of the achievement gap between high and low-income students can be explained by this slide. Here we profile one innovative program stemming reading loss.


This nonprofit offers a five-week summer literacy program for children in Pre-Kindergarten through 3rd grade. Since its 2011 launch as a pilot with 42 students, the program has grown to serve nearly 2,000 students in 21 schools in low-income communities in Oakland, CA, Philadelphia, PA, and Washington, DC.

Springboard teachers visit each student’s home before the start of the program to engage parents—a significant step in empowering caregivers as partners in their child’s learning. Students then attend daily half-day literacy classes, capped at 15 students each, for five weeks. Children are grouped by reading level rather than grade level to allow teachers to streamline their instruction. Once a week, teachers lead family workshops where parents learn how to choose appropriate books for, and co-read with, their children. Parents and children alike are encouraged to read at home, both together and separately. Springboard also offers families learning incentives – including books, backpacks, and tablets – commensurate with student reading growth and attendance at family workshops.


Kids that participate in Springboard’s summer program can avoid learning loss and make positive gains.  For example, the hundreds of low-income kids in Springboard’s 2015 summer program averaged three months of reading gain by the time they returned to school. The program also achieves high levels of parent engagement – average attendance at weekly family workshops was 94%.


The costs of providing Springboard Collaborative’s summer program vary by location, but we estimate that it takes about $1,000 to help a kid avoid summer slide and become a stronger reader.  But because much of this cost is covered by the school districts Springboard partners with, the philanthropic cost of helping a child avoid summer slide ranges from only $25 to $350.  You can contribute any amount on Springboard Collaborative’s donor suggestion page.


In addition to preventing summer slide, you can support organizations such as Children’s Literacy Initiative that provides professional development for pre-K through third grade teachers.  Children taught in those classrooms outperform their peers on several measures of literacy skill. You can also look at programs that supplement preschool curricula and provide information to parents to bolster language acquisition and literacy skills, such as Jumpstart.


Look for literacy programs that have experienced teachers leading instruction, that engage parents and families in learning, and that measure their students reading gains using a nationally recognized literacy assessment.

For more on the evidence base for Springboard Collaborative, please see our full profile in our Invest in a Strong Start for Children toolkit.