An Analysis of the Effects of an Academic Summer Program for Middle School Students

Middle School Summer Program
Implementing Organization: 
Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL)
Edna McConnell Clark Foundation

BELL’s middle school program serves rising sixth- through eighth-grade students who are performing one to two years below grade level. The goals of the program are to increase student’s literacy and math skills and to enhance their social development. BELL provides students with 6.5 hours of daily programming for approximately five weeks, five days per week.

Evaluation of the Middle School Summer Program found that the program:

  1. showed suggestive evidence of having had a positive impact on students’ math achievement (although the effects were statistically inconclusive),
  2. showed no effects in terms of higher reading scores for BELL students compared to non-BELL students, and
  3. was implemented with fidelity in the study districts, relative to the intended BELL middle school model and relative to national standards for summer learning programs.

One of the limitations of this study is that the margin of error around the impact findings is large, due to challenges with recruiting enough students for the evaluation. Small sample sizes in a study make it difficult to statistically detect the effects of a program, unless the effects are exceptionally large (in this instance, larger than what would be typically expected of a summer academic program). For this reason, the impact findings from the study are considered suggestive and should be used to generate hypotheses that could be more definitively tested in a future evaluation.

The BELL study produced many other useful insights and recommendations for improving this and similar programs. Many such insights have already been adopted by BELL, which is now evaluating the program refinements they have implemented.

CNCS Program(s): 
Social Innovation Fund
CNCS Focus Area(s): 
Youth Development (SIF)
Age(s) Studied: 
6-12 (Childhood)
13-17 (Adolescent)
Focus Population(s)/Community(s): 
Opportunity Youth
Outcomes Category(s): 
K-12 Success
Study Type(s): 
Study Design(s): 
Experimental (RCT)
Level of Evidence: 
Year Published: 
Date Posted Online: 
September 14, 2015
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