Summer Learning is Important Component of Education Reform

Senator Ryan P. Aument

Now that the weather is warming and the fields are full of growing crops again, we welcome another familiar sound – that of children playing outside in the beautiful sunshine, celebrating another completed school year.

Summertime is an excellent time for students to rejuvenate, relax and enjoy time with family and friends.  It also presents a unique opportunity for young people to engage in learning and other enrichment activities that can produce significant benefits.

Most of our kids only receive academic instruction and the other programs that schools offer about 180 days a year – which is really only about 950 hours.

To put that in perspective, that’s like an adult working a full time job only half the year.

Many policymakers are finally waking up to the reality that high quality summertime programs improve academic performance, help to develop positive social skills, reduce opportunities for problems such as juvenile delinquency, and give children an opportunity to grow in character and be enhanced through arts and culture.

To me, this just makes common sense.

Why would we want to waste valuable time during the summer, when we could be offering parents a safe place for childcare and simultaneously benefiting their children in so many ways?

As I travel the 36th Senatorial District, people regularly tell me that they support educational programs that (1) actually direct money to students and the programs that support young people; (2) that can be measured; and (3) that we know work.

High quality summertime programs are the type of educational opportunity that meets those important benchmarks.

In fact, a wide array of public agencies, community-based organizations, schools, libraries, museums, recreation centers, camps and businesses in our community contribute to the wellbeing of youth through summer programming.

We also know that offering additional learning and development opportunities during times when young people are not in school is important.  This gap that – if filled by high quality learning and development opportunities – can make a real difference by:

  • Keeping students safe.
  • Supporting learning and higher academic achievement.
  • Providing mentoring by caring adults to support healthy social and psychological development.
  • Extending the school year with practice-oriented materials to reinforce concepts and skills taught during the previous school year.
  • Providing social and intellectual enrichment, such as music, dance, artwork, field trips and service learning opportunities to instill a broader set of values.

To be sure – summertime learning programs are an important component in education reform in Pennsylvania. 

If Pennsylvania wants to be a leader among states, and if America wants to be a true leader among the nations, we must finds new and innovative ways to positively influence young people.

According to Eva Baker, President of the World Educational Research Association – who literally travels the world evaluating education policies and programs – countries that are well known for their high academic achievements such as Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore all have afterschool and summer learning programs as a common educational option.

The reason is simple:  based on empirical evidence, these programs work.

The key is a concept called, “time on task.”  High quality summer programs increase learning and development time by promoting engagement in activities and interest in learning and skill and social development.

Today, summertime programs aren’t just helping young people improve academically – they are changing students’ competencies through character and identity development, promoting social responsibility, and helping with the development of primary indicators for success in life:  resiliency and high aspirations.

According to research, we have a long way to go in Pennsylvania to make sure that the young people that will be our next set of leaders are ready for the future that they will inherit.

Certainly, rigorous standards, systems of accountability, transparency, educator effectiveness, innovative technology and competition are part of the solution.

However, I also believe that one of the important keystones to success is what decades of studies and research have made evident:  that high quality summertime programs can promote a joy of learning and discovery, bringing untapped value to young people, their families and communities, and our state and nation.

As co-chair of the General Assembly’s Afterschool Caucus, I joined my Democrat colleague Senator John Yudichak in offering a simple resolution establishing July 14, 2016 as Summer Learning Day in Pennsylvania.

While only symbolic, I am hopeful that the resolution which was unanimously adopted will help us promote collaborative models of school-community-family and make a meaningful – and important – difference in the lives of parents and children.

In the end, I believe that summertime learning programs may be an important, underdeveloped, underappreciated component of how we can finally address some of the educational and social issues that challenge us.

To learn more about summer programming options, please visit