The Evolution of Summer School

Summer school has long been a part of education efforts in the U.S., and it's not just about remedial education, though that is a large part of what summer school entails. However, in recent years schools have been also been offering advanced summer classes as part of enrichment programs for students who want to get ahead. Still other districts have seen cuts in funding for summer classes, but many are opting to put more emphasis on summer education. The question is, does it work?

Remedial Classes

The original intent of summer school was, and remains in many cases, a remedial option for students to pick up credits they weren't able to obtain during the year in order to keep them on pace to graduate with the rest of their classes. Research has demonstrated with certainty that over the course of the summer, students do lose some of the knowledge they acquire during the school year. However, the research on what effect summer school has on curtailing these loses is not as full-fledged. Research suggests “that many types of summer learning programs have the potential to reduce summer learning losses, but they are not guaranteed to do so.” In addition, there has been no formal research on the effect of remedial summer school in the long term.


Though budget cuts have hampered many school systems' ability to offer extensive summer education programs, many of those with the means are beginning to implement summer enrichment programs in addition to remedial programs. These programs allow students to start earning high school credits in advance and help them make the transition into more challenging honors and AP classes. The Los Angeles Unified public school district is one such district offering these programs, a fact that is all the more impressive considering that just seven years ago its summer school budget was cut from almost $50 million to less than $1 million. The budget is now back up to $38 million, suggesting that while research on summer school initiatives may not be entirely conclusive, states are willing to bet that summer school is worth the cost.

For more information, check out NPR's "What We Don't Know About Summer School".