Raising successful children with high academic achievement takes a lot of work from teachers, parents, and, most importantly, the students themselves. If you’re considering placing your child in a summer school program, below are some of the benefits they could reap from this decision.
Here are the top 15 benefits of summer school:
- It helps students develop life skills.
- It fosters independence in students.
- It emphasizes resiliency.
- It provides academic and personal growth.
- It leads to increases in self-confidence and self-esteem.
- It keeps students intellectually engaged.
- It gives students a sense of purpose.
- It’s a positive tool to help students develop social skills.
- It keeps students active and in a balanced routine.
- It provides individualized student support.
- It promotes differentiated instruction.
- It gives students an academic edge.
- It is enriching.
- It leads to higher focus and less distraction.
- It offers hands-on experience and activities.
Let’s take a deeper look at these 15 benefits of summer school to discover the hidden reasons why it may be a blessing in disguise. We’ll also dig into the details of the 15 reasons summer school is beneficial. We’ll also cover what the purpose of summer school is, how difficult it is, and whether it’s mandatory.
1. It Helps Students Develop Life Skills
Summer school is essentially a continuation of the regular school year. So, just like school, students are actively engaged in activities and tasks that force them to practice and build on life skills.
Research shows us that school settings are critical to children’s:
- Physical development
- Intellectual advancement
- Social/emotional development
Additionally, kids need adult support all year-round, not just during the standard school year.
A publication on the effects of summertime experiences from the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine stated, “Exposure to positive experiences, settings, and people, as well as opportunities to gain and refine life skills, supports young people in the acquisition and growth of their assets.”
Students develop essential skills like communication, collaboration, and time management during the school year and build on them during summer school programs.
Talking to teachers and working with peers gives students practice engaging and communicating with those around them in a professional setting.
Additionally, students build on their teamwork and collaboration techniques in summer school. Plenty of summer school programs are hands-on and activity-based, especially in STEM classes. These activities work to bring students together in a safe and engaging environment.
Further, students also learn time management skills in summer school. Many summer school programs are heavily differentiated, which means that a lot of the work is happening on an individual enrichment level.
Time management, collaboration, and communication – these skills central to summer school are also essential skills to have in the professional workplace.
While the implementation of summer school programs varies across different types of settings and youths of different ages and socio-economic backgrounds, it’s still true that environments that promote positive support and development directly impact your child’s development of future life skills.
2. It Fosters Independence in Students
Researchers who study youth development have come up with a theory called self-determination. This theory suggests that individuals are naturally inclined to be driven to overcome obstacles. However, natural motivation can be inhibited or supported by external factors, like one’s environment.
Like I mentioned previously, summer school involves a lot of independent work. Generally, if you’re attending summer school, it’s either to push yourself ahead of your classmates or to catch up to grade level.
Either way, you’re at summer school for you, and a lot of the work is only for you. So, summer school is a great place to foster independence in students.
It takes a lot of grit and determination to want to enrich and challenge yourself intellectually. However, seeing that goal through by attending summer school programming is a great way to boost independence and gain a sense of self-assuredness.
Even if you’re at summer school to catch up, it still has a tremendous impact on your ability to become more independent and self-sufficient.
Summer school programs, and most educational institutions, are filled with caring adults who aim to support and help students become independent, contributing members of society.
3. It Emphasizes Resiliency
Resiliency is a term used to describe individuals who prosper despite adversity.
A common reason students at the secondary and primary level attend summer school is failing a course or lacking sufficient credits to graduate or move on to the next grade level.
While this can be disheartening to students, especially those who failed due to an impoverished background or previous trauma, if they can complete a summer school program and make up for lost credit, studies show that they develop increased resiliency.
This study from the Children’s Research Institute and partners states that “While there’s huge variation in the type and severity of adversity that children experience, there’s some evidence that specific individual, relational and school factors are associated with resilient outcomes across a range of contexts.”
Attending summer school to recover credit can be daunting, especially if you failed a regular course during the standard school year. But, if a student can push through and complete a summer school program, they’re more likely to persevere through future trying times.
Even if you’re attending summer school as a means of bettering yourself or getting ahead, overcoming challenges and powering through a rigorous curriculum helps you practice resilience.
4. It Provides Academic and Personal Growth
Students who attend summer school are typically benefitting in several ways, but most especially personally and academically.
According to research publications from the University of Oregon, the pattern of achievement tends to move in an upward trajectory during the school year. Still, for students that take a summer vacation, their growth decreases.
Personally, students grow for all the reasons listed above. In addition, they develop skills they need as adults, learn how to be independent and resilient, and learn self-advocacy.
While summer school programs typically build off the standard school year curriculum, they can also be challenging and require a lot of intellectual engagement from students.
Students who are actively engaged in learning materials tend to bloom and become better academic achievers.
Additionally, summer school programs keep youth consistent in practice with academic studies. That way, there’s no loss in retention.
5. It Leads To Increases in Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem
As we grow up, we learn many things about life, society, and our world. For young adults, especially adolescents, self-conception, and identities are rapidly developing.
When you enter young adulthood, you learn how to view yourself and develop your self-esteem. Researchers say that two significant self-conception factors happen during adolescence. One is mastery – this is a personal sense of control that stems from our actions and the outcomes those actions have.
For example, if you study hard for an exam and ace the test, that would be an example of mastery. This would also lead to a more positive view of yourself and increase your self-esteem.
The other factor is positive self-esteem. This means that you view yourself in a positive light and perceive yourself to be worthy.
Mastery and self-esteem are critical developmental factors for youth. In addition, these two factors are prominent in self-determination.
Summer school programs are in positive settings and environments with quality instructors who care about a student’s academic achievements and their social and emotional well-being.
Successfully progressing through summer school is a great way to increase your self-esteem because it helps you master concepts and improve your self-worth.
Studies from researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln stated in a recent publication that “Increasing cognitive and physical competence should lead to gains in self-esteem and mastery throughout adolescence.”
One sure-fire way to increase your child’s cognitive and physical competence is to challenge them academically and provide routine activities for them to master. All of which is included in most summer school programs.
6. It Keeps Students Intellectually Engaged
By now, we’ve covered a lot of topics, so it can be assumed that summer learning programs have the potential to help students and youth improve their academic and personal outcomes.
We know now that when students are actively engaged in learning instruction and material, especially for an extended amount of time, they have high achievement rates and retain the information better.
Long periods of rest or summer vacation have the potential to create what’s known in the educational field as “summer slide” or “summer loss.”
When students maintain their routine and schedule with a summer learning program, they actively work to prevent summer loss and slides. This means that they’re much more prepared for school to restart in the fall than students that take a vacation during the summer months.
According to research presented in this article, an analysis was conducted to estimate the extent of summer learning loss for grade-level primary and secondary students.
This study found that the average student score in the fall term was lower than the end of school scores. They estimated that the summer learning loss was equal to about one month’s loss of academic knowledge.
7. It Gives Students a Sense of Purpose
A lot of kids, especially those from deprived or disadvantaged backgrounds, lack purpose during summer vacation.
School gives youth a reason for working, studying, and day-to-day life. School is often where their social system exists, as well as their professional futures.
During summer vacation, not only is the retention of information at risk, but so is your student’s sense of purpose.
Summer learning programs provide structure to young adult experiences and make them more likely to stay focused and tuned to academics. Research also suggests that students involved in school and regularly engaged are less likely to get involved in risky or troublesome behaviors and activities.
8. It’s A Positive Tool To Help Students Develop Social Skills
Nowadays, youth and children are becoming less and less competent at speaking and communicating in face-to-face scenarios. The 21st century has, in a way, robbed kids of their communication and social development by taking social interaction to a digital space.
Today’s students are:
- Constantly on social media
- Using digital networks to communicate with their peers
- Building relationships virtually
In a world of social distancing, how do we help kids develop the social skills they need to be successful adults?
Summer learning programs allow students to have more face-to-face interactions with their peers and more opportunities to learn social-emotional skills that’ll help them become balanced adults with healthy relationships.
Kids need to be taught how to interact with those around them appropriately. What better way to teach them than through consistent practice in the form of a summer school program?
Social interaction is key to successfully managing the learning process.
9. It Keeps Students Active and in a Balanced Routine
We’ve all heard and familiarized ourselves with common idioms and expressions about the importance of routines in our daily lives. You know the ones I’m talking about: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” or “Hit the books,” or “As regular as a clockwork.”
We usually interpret those expressions to mean things like, “Maybe I should eat more apples.” But what if the intent behind those typical cliches is that routine is critical to our overall health and performance?
Researchers agree that routines help support our daily functionality and keep people happy and healthy. But, while practices are suitable for everyone, they’re especially vital for children and young adults.
This study found that routines in young adults and children led to improved social skills, sleep habits, and academic success.
Students who don’t participate in summer school programs quickly lose their structure during the school year.
Many students are active in sports and physical exertion during the school year, but once school ends for summer, many sports and extracurricular activities also end.
This ends not only a student’s ability to be regularly active, but it also upends their daily routine.
With the end of the school year comes long nights, afternoon wake-up calls, and a lack of balance. Without routines, kids tend to fall into the trap of wasting time on social media, gaming, and television.
An increase in screen time could lead to a loss in academic retention. Also, the skills and knowledge they learn during the school year fly out the window without regular practice.
This leads to what academics and educators refer to as the achievement gap or summer slide.
So, when students return to school in the fall after a long break, teachers end up having to reteach last year’s curriculum before diving into new work. This creates more work for students because they have to double up on old learning objectives and new ones to stay on track.
10. It Provides Individualized Student Support
Maybe you’ve heard about this heated educational debate, and perhaps you haven’t. Still, educators seem to be united about the importance of small class sizes and student-to-teacher ratios.
Twenty-four states have mandated or incentivized smaller class sizes in recent decades, but funding remains an issue in accomplishing this in practice.
However, summer school programs typically have fewer participants and are funded with different streams of income than the traditional public school curriculum. So, this means that summer school programs tend to be smaller in class sizes.
In the ’80s, Tennessee conducted a study to examine the effectiveness of small class sizes on student achievement. The results were that student achievement in smaller class sizes increased to the equivalent of about three additional months of schooling.
And that’s not all.
Based on the same study, the increased academic achievement in those students was still present four years later.
Summer school programs are backed by evidence that suggests that they can not only help students catch up to grade-level if they’re behind but boost them into academic readiness and achievement for years to come.
11. It Promotes Differentiated Instruction
In recent years, researchers, policymakers, and educators have been trying to meet students where they’re at academically. The goal has shifted from moving students up in grade levels to helping them grow from where they started at the beginning of the year to where they end of the year.
One way that educators attempt to improve student growth is through differentiated instruction. Differentiated instruction means that educators have drifted away from the one-size-fits-all pedagogy to offering different pathways for students to learn and achieve, all within one classroom.
For example, in my high school English classroom, it was common for there to be multiple students in one classroom that were at very different reading levels. I had students reading at a 5th grade level in some of my classes and others at a 12th-grade level. In order to effectively teach both students, I had to change traditional methods of teaching to meet their unique needs.
One way teachers can provide differentiated instruction is by giving students a choice in project-based activities. This can be difficult to do, though, in a classroom of more than 20 students.
In this way, summer school is extremely beneficial because, with a tendency to have fewer learners in the classroom, summer learning programs have an improved delivery method for differentiated instruction.
In summer learning programs, there are often many different grade levels of students, and they’re all there for various reasons. What’s more, is that the class sizes in summer learning programs are more condensed.
So, teachers in summer learning programs have more one-on-one time with each student and have more tools at their disposal to differentiate instruction so that it fits each student’s needs.
Recent research findings show that changing or adapting educational content can make learning more engaging for students. It also says that “…studies showed positive effects of differentiated instruction on student achievement.”
12. It Gives Students an Academic Edge
The overall goal of schooling is to give students the tools to succeed in their post-secondary lives. Whether they want to attend college or increase their employability, summer learning programs offer students the edge they need in the modern world.
Interdisciplinary knowledge and transferable skills are highly sought-after traits in today’s job market.
Students in summer learning programs have opportunities that aren’t always available during the school year. Also, working at their own pace, with quality, personalized instruction, leads to increased academic gains over a shorter time.
Since summer learning programs often involve active engagement strategies and different activities, it can be easier for students to learn and develop these highly sought-after skills than in the traditional classroom, sitting at a desk for eight hours a day.
This article from the Model United Nations Institute, says that the vast array of learning experiences, from “field trips and guest speakers to group projects and open house presentations” can be beneficial to all kinds of learners.
13. It Is Enriching
In the past, there has been some debate about mandating summer school and requiring students who don’t maintain or reach common achievement goals during the traditional school year to attend summer programs.
Summer school, though, isn’t only designed for students in remedial studies. It’s also an opportunity for enrichment. While there are sometimes distinctions between these summer learning programs in urban or more heavily funded areas, summer school is often combined as a remedial intervention and enrichment strategy, especially in rural or underfunded regions.
Regardless of why you attend summer school, though, studies show that summer learning programs can help students, especially those from underserved backgrounds, feel more prepared for college or the workforce.
College and workforce readiness are some of the most pressing concerns in modern education. Unfortunately, it’s often a matter of debate among educators about how best to prepare students for their lives after secondary school.
One preparation tactic remains steadfast in this debate, though: summer learning programs.
Even if your child didn’t meet grade-level requirements during the standard school year, attending summer school doesn’t mean that they’ll be behind in their future.
The idea that summer learning programs offer more opportunities and enrichment for students is still a theory-driven concept, but it’s backed by research.
14. It Leads to Higher Focus and Less Distraction
Every day, people are plagued by distractions. And, in today’s world, distractions are much easier to come by than focus tactics.
Distractions aren’t just problems faced by students, either. They’re constant for adults and children alike.
So, how do we combat distraction and increase our ability to focus?
Well, according to this article, there are two types of focus strategies we can take:
- Promotional-focused: This tactic involves the presence of distractions, but participants focus on a goal and continue working despite a distraction.
- Prevention-focused: This type of focusing involves removing all distractions while attempting to work and focus.
This study found that promotional focus was better at helping participants enjoy the work and finish through to completion than prevention focus.
The significance of focus on summer learning programs is that students are encouraged to focus using promotional focus tactics. Rather than removing things from them, we give them something to help them stay focused on their goals and complete the work.
Summer school programs often involve hands-on activities, collaboration with peers, lively discussions, field trips, and more. On the surface, the variety may seem like a distraction from enrichment, but actually, it offers students the ability to keep their focus and achieve goals.
15. It Offers Hands-On Experience and Activities
When I taught high school English, plenty of students told me that they preferred summer school compared to traditional school.
Their answers about why they liked summer school more were all the same: It’s different.
During the standard school year, teachers are busy juggling multiple classes with hundreds of students in a traditional classroom, especially in low-income schools, like the one where I was teaching.
The ability to craft unique lessons and fun activities constantly is straining for many educators and impossible during the school year. While teachers try to often create fun and individual classroom activities, it’s not always the norm in every classroom.
Summer learning programs, though, are heavy in fun and engagement. The smaller class sizes and student-to-teacher ratio allow educators more opportunities and time to craft fun and engaging lessons that are more likely to pique student interest.
If students are interested in the material, they’re more likely to focus on it and retain it.
What Is the Purpose of Summer School?
Summer school tends to come with a negative connotation; frequently, parents and students assume that summer school is a direct result of failing during the regular school year. While this is sometimes the case, that’s not the purpose of summer school.
The purpose of summer school is to help students maximize their academic success. In addition, summer school can help students bridge achievement gaps, enrich their intellectual capacity to get ahead for the next school year, or provide remedial instruction for content missed during the year.
There are various reasons why a student may seek to continue the school year during the summer months.
Often students experience the “summer slide,” where they forget information they learned from August to May due to a lack of intellectual stimulation for a prolonged period.
For other students, sometimes instruction during the school year isn’t fruitful. For example, sometimes, students deal with trauma or life circumstances that distract them from their academics or directly prevent them from going to school.
In those cases, summer school programs offer an opportunity for students to get the information they missed while still keeping up with their grade-level peers.
In other cases, summer school programs provide highly driven individuals the opportunity to get ahead. Many summer school programs offer enrichment opportunities where students can build on the knowledge they gained during the year, and use that to better their chances of success next school year, skip a grade, or even graduate early.
Is Summer School Difficult?
Attending summer school for the first time can be nerve-racking, especially if you don’t know what to expect. Of course, each summer school program is different, but how difficult are they?
Summer school programs are intended to be rigorous, but the teachers and curriculum are designed to be challenging but doable. Summer school programs typically have smaller class sizes and teachers that excel in differentiation methods to help students reach high academic achievement.
If you or your child struggled academically during the school year, summer school might seem difficult. However, having a positive outlook on the work and your ability to complete it can make all the difference.
It’s like they say – whether you say you can, or you say you can’t, you’re right.
Is Summer School Mandatory?
If you’ve been considering summer school, or your school has suggested it, you may wonder if it is mandatory.
Summer school programs can be mandatory for public school students in grade levels k-12 who fail a course during the standard school year. However, summer school regulations depend on each learning institution and their graduation/progression requirements.
Suppose a learning institution, particularly a public primary or secondary school, doesn’t have the infrastructure to help students progress to the next grade level in a failed course or lost credits. In that case, they may elect to mandate summer school.
Typically, summer school won’t be mandated if there are alternative pathways for students to take to recover credits or make up for a failed course.
While it’s not necessarily mandatory, summer school may be advised to students at the post-secondary level if they want to graduate early, or if they need a particular course that is only available during the summer months.
When I was trying to get my bachelor’s degree a year early, I took 2 summer sessions during my undergraduate career in order to get ahead. Similarly, it’s possible for some required or popular courses to fill up quickly during the standard term year. In that case, you would likely have to enroll in a summer school session in order to attend that course.
So, there are several factors to consider when determining the requirements for summer school. Generally, it’s only mandated if the learning institution has no other options for students to achieve the required number of credits needed to graduate.
- NCBI: The Effects of Summertime Experiences on Children’s Development
- NCBI: Fostering Higher Education: A Postsecondary Access and Retention Intervention for Youth with Foster Care Experience
- NCBI: What Factors are Associated with Resilient outcomes in Children Exposed to Social Adversity? A Systematic Review
- JSTOR: Identification of Summer School Effects by Comparing the In and Out of School Growth Rates of Struggling Early Readers
- NCBI: Self-Esteem and Mastery Trajectories in High School by Social Class and Gender
- NCBI: The Importance of Creating Habits and Routine
- Brookings: Class Size: What Research Says and What it Means for State Policy
- RAND Education: Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children’s Learning
- Frontiers in Psychology: Differentiated Instruction in Secondary Education: A Systematic Review of Research Evidence
- Model United Nations Institute: Top 10 Benefits of Academic Summer Programs
- Sage Journals: A Bridge Between High School and College Case Study
- San Jose State University: The Effect of Distractions on Task Performance and Enjoyment as Moderated by Regulatory Fit