Showing Up Matters for R.E.A.L. Step 2

Using R.E.A.L To Strengthen Summer Learning

More resources than ever are being invested in summer learning programs as part of helping students to recover from the pandemic. Access to high quality summer learning is especially essential for students from lower-income communities, who are three times less likely to participate in a structured summer learning experience than their higher income peers, according to research by the Afterschool Alliance. As shown in this Summer Learning Toolkit developed by the Wallace Foundation, the most successful programs are engaging, enriching and fun, not just focused on remediation.

“The summer is so important to help young people reconnect with friends, peers and educators after such a difficult year,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a video message supporting National Summer Learning Week, an initiative held annually in July and sponsored by the nonprofit National Summer Learning Association (NSLA).

Schools and summer program providers can use the concepts in R.E.A.L. (Routines, Engagement, Access to resources and Learning) to strengthen their summer learning efforts as well as their attendance initiatives during the school year. 

Use R.E.A.L. to help families with Sign Up, Show Up, Follow Up and Level Up!

Sign Up: Use the messaging in the Showing Up Matters for R.E.A.L. toolkit to encourage students and families to sign up and enroll.

  • Schools and districts can use R.E.A.L messaging to remind families that summer is an opportunity to keep students in the routine of showing up every day, connect with friends, other families and the larger community, and gain access to resources such as food and other supports. Tell families that this is also a chance for learning in an exciting, high quality summer program that is available at low to no charge!

  • The Wallace Foundation has created a toolkit to help get out the word on summer learning. You can also encourage students and families to use Discover Summer to find affordable and accessible high quality summer learning programs in their area, as well as summer meals, parent tips and free resources. 

Show Up: Getting students and families to sign up is just the beginning. The next step is making sure they actually attend.

Follow Up: Use data on the students you have in a two or six week program to help identify those who are facing attendance barriers in your program. Program staff can reach out to the family of any child who misses one or more days a week, starting in the first week, to find out what is happening and offer support. If the problem persists, then the program might consider informing the child’s school about the challenges in an effort to secure additional outreach and support when they enter school.

Level Up: Consider how your program could become even more R.E. A.L. by promoting routines, facilitating relationship building and engagement in learning, and connecting students and families to needed resources.

Additional Resources
  • National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) provides resources to assist programs in shaping and strengthening their summer programs, including archived webinars, tip sheets for providers and parents/caregivers and toolkits.

  • Learn about National Summer Learning Week, held this year between July 11-15, 2022. 

  • Turnaround For Children provides a wealth of resources and tools in the Developmental Relationships section of its Whole Child Design Toolkit. While aimed at schools, they can easily be used by summer learning providers as well.

  • The RAND report, Getting to Work on Summer Learning, Recommended Practices for Success (2018), is a guide for district leaders and their partners across the country who are interested in launching summer learning programs or improving established ones.