Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Jeanne L. Surface


Public School Districts across the nation are facing the challenge of increasing student achievement. Learning that is lost over the summer has been found to be a key factor of why some students fall further and further behind their peers. Higher socio-economic students actually can make gains in reading over the summer, while students in poverty may lose one to two months of achievement. In mathematics, all students may experience a summer learning loss, while students in poverty may lose up to three months. Although students in poverty learn at similar rates as their peers during the school year, the losses incurred over the summers accumulate and have been found to be part of the reason for the achievement gap. School leaders know that quality summer learning programs may help keep student learning more continuous. The cuts in educational funding since the financial crisis of 2008 make it crucial for districts to know if money spent on summer programming is producing the desired results. The purpose of the program evaluation study was to evaluate the impact of one district’s summer learning program on achievement for invited students who attended the three-week program. The goal of the summer program was to combat summer learning loss in reading and math, as well as to help reduce the achievement gap in this district. Therefore, this program evaluation analyzed grade level mean scores in reading and math from pre-test to post-test for participating students. To evaluate summer learning loss, the study compared changes in achievement from spring to fall for participating students and similar students who were invited but chose not to attend. To determine any impact on the achievement gap in the host district, the study examined the third grade Nebraska State Accountability Assessments for reading and math for students who participated for two or more summers. This data was compared with similar students who were invited and chose not to attend. Further analysis was conducted using data for students in poverty who participated for two or more summers, as compared to all students and similar students in poverty who were invited and chose not to attend. Finally, parents are key stakeholders and this study looked at parent feedback regarding satisfaction with the program and the value of program offerings. The study found that participating students did make significant gains in reading from pre-test to posttest. In addition, no summer loss was found in reading achievement from spring to fall. In the area of mathematics, students in kindergarten grew significantly, yet the other grade levels experienced no significant change. From spring to fall, the study found that participating and non-participating students experienced significant loss. It was found that students who participated in the summer learning program for two or more years did not perform significantly different on the Nebraska State Accountability Assessments than non-participating students and all other students. Finally, parent feedback indicates that the majority of parents are satisfied with the program and they find the Family Day activities and resources to be helpful. This program evaluation indicates that the summer program has had a positive impact on reading achievement, but summer learning loss occurred in mathematics. The study suggests that district and program administrators may want to evaluate the instructional strategies and materials used for teaching math and revisions may be needed. Parent satisfaction was strongly agreed upon, but other areas on the parent survey suggest additional analysis. Further research may be warranted with regards to the impact on other participating students such as English Language Learners and racial sub-groups.


A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate College of the University of Nebraska in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education. Copyright 2015 Kara L. Hutton.

Included in

Education Commons