Survey: Majority of MA Independent Schools Offer Academically Oriented Summer Programs

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Report is first in series on summer enrichment programs that can prevent summer learning loss, narrow achievement gap

Contact Jamie Gass, 617-723-2277 ext. 210 or jgass@pioneerinstitute.org

BOSTON – A survey of more than 70 Massachusetts private and parochial schools found that most offer academically-oriented summer programs, which have been found to prevent summer learning loss and can help close the achievement gap among student groups.

The survey is the first of a three-part study from Pioneer Institute that will yield a comprehensive guide to summer enrichment programs in the commonwealth. Summer learning loss has been described by the U.S. Department of Education as “devastating” among students, especially those from low-income backgrounds. Many low-income students lose two-to-three months of reading skills during the summer, exacerbating the achievement gap.

“We believe effective summer enrichment programs at Massachusetts’ private and parochial schools could narrow the achievement gap by lessening summer learning loss and also acclimate disadvantaged students to environments that approximate a college experience,” said Pioneer Institute Executive Director Jim Stergios.

In “Survey of Summer Enrichment Programs at Independent and Parochial Schools in Massachusetts,” authors Lauren Corvese and William Donovan find that 39 of the 74 private and parochial schools that responded to the survey offer academically-oriented summer programs. Another 10 offer non-academic programming.

The arts and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) are the subjects most often offered by the programs. Most serve fewer than 200 students and many serve between 50 and 199 students.  The programs are offered at all grade levels, though grades five through eight are the most popular for summer enrichment.

Almost all the schools that offer summer enrichment hire their own teachers for the programs; a majority also hire outside teachers.

Of the 33 schools with summer enrichment programs open to students who aren’t enrolled at the school, marketing was the most commonly mentioned reason for offering the programs, followed by creating a pipeline for increasing the school’s diversity.

Most schools charge tuition for summer enrichment, some on a weekly basis and others for the entire program.  One even charges by the hour.  Of those that charge for the entire program, costs range from $850 to $8,000.

Of the 34 responding schools that don’t offer academically-oriented summer enrichment, 22 say they have considered starting such programs.  Budget, staffing, facilities and a lack of expertise or student interest were the most common reasons for not having a program.  Five are considering or in the process of developing summer enrichment programs.

Corvese and Donovan stress that the survey results are not scientific, but they do provide a valuable insight into current summer enrichment offerings.  They also note that the response rate was probably higher among schools that currently have programs because they are likely to be more interested in the topic.

The second study in the series will be a national analysis of best practices in summer enrichment programs and the third will focus on the cost of starting new programs.

Lauren Corvese recently earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northeastern University.  In 2015, she joined Pioneer through Northeastern’s co-op program and has continued as a research assistant.

William Donovan is a former staff writer with the Providence Journal, where he wrote about business and government.  He has taught business journalism in the graduate programs at Boston University and Northeastern University.

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Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.

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