Imagine it’s the first day of school. You’re a sixth
grade student. You walk into a new classroom
in a new school, meet the teacher, greet old
friends, and get into a new routine, perhaps very
different from what you did during summer break. As
students settle into their seats, the teacher writes a
question on the board and asks you to write in your
journal: “How did you spend your summer vacation?”
Many Americans have an idyllic image of summer
as a carefree, happy time when “kids can be kids,”
enjoying such experiences as summer camp; time with
family; vacations; and trips to museums, parks, and
libraries. While this picture holds true for wealthier
kids, summer break looks very different for poorer
children. Wealthier children and youth typically access
a wide variety of resources that help them grow both
academically and developmentally over the summer,
but poorer children often struggle to access basic
needs such as healthy meals and medical care.
Summer is thus a time when the rich get richer and
the poor get poorer.
Some of this difference is due to public policy.
Although policies guarantee that all children and youth
have access to public education and school-based
resources from September to June, guaranteed access to
summer resources is rare. This paper analyzes the current
landscape of public policies that directly or indirectly
support summer learning opportunities for
young people in kindergarten through twelfth grade.
Based on this review, we draw several conclusions.
First, policies supporting summer learning opportunities