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Center for American Progress

Promoting Educational Achievement & Opportunity Through Summer Scholarships

Promoting Educational Achievement & Opportunity Through Summer Scholarships




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Executive Summary

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) marked an important expansion of the federal role in promoting educational opportunity, but it does not address the needs of children in the summer. Strong evidence shows that learning slows or stops in the summer months, while gaps in student performance grow. Evaluations of summer programs also show that such programs have consistent positive effects on knowledge, skills, and test scores.

We propose a program of Summer Scholarships for children to use toward traditional summer school or summer enrichment programs in the years prior to third grade, when NCLB testing begins. Below are the key features of our proposal:

  • Promoting parental choice. Summer Scholarships would allow families to select the program that best fits their child’s needs, thereby boosting educational outcomes and helping schools meet NCLB goals.
  • Promoting innovation. Public and private organizations would be eligible to administer summer programs, fostering competition that will promote quality, innovation and accountability.
  • Engendering broad support. All children who start school academically behind would qualify for Scholarships, and partial or full Scholarships would be available to most families on an income-based sliding scale.
  • Focusing on cost-effectiveness and affordability. Based on two possible program configurations, the costs of such a proposal would be between $4.9 and $8.1 billion annually, and would serve 4.5 to 6 million children.

Our proposal complements No Child Left Behind by giving children a "summer boost" in the years before third grade, when children first take the tests mandated by NCLB. It stands to reinvigorate faith in public education by addressing early scholastic inequality for which schools are not responsible. At the same time, it is designed to engender broad popular support, as it will benefit students with school readiness problems at all income levels. By increasing the affordability of childcare and promoting the market for quality summer programs, our proposal should simultaneously ease the burdens on working parents while providing more and better-suited options for their children’s summer activities.

Timely, popular, affordable, innovative, and effective, our Summer Scholarship proposal is the next logical step in federal education reform.

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