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This research explores summer learning loss and the effect of summer resources on students’ literacy growth. Using the faucet theory, this mixed methods sequential explanatory study was designed to provide equitable resources and educational support for students in grades five through eight in a rural, socioeconomically disadvantaged school district. Transportation, breakfast, lunch, books, and a literacy-focused enrichment program were coordinated and provided for all participants in an effort to reduce learning loss during summer break. The pragmatic approach to inquiry incorporated both quantitative (e.g., literacy outputs, registration, and attendance data) and qualitative data (e.g., parent open-ended question responses). Convenience sampling was used to recruit 97 students for this study. Summer learning gains were reported for two grade levels and three grade levels maintained above benchmark status throughout the summer. Students (74%) believed that their reading skills had improved and parents (100%) wanted the program to continue in the future. Registrations increased by 746%, retention increased by 34%, and daily participation increased by 18%. This study did not attempt to measure all factors that affect students’ summer learning, but factors that could reasonably be provided by a school district. Recommendations for practice include the provision of school-year resources and the delivery of enrichment-focused instruction during the summer months. Additional research is recommended to study the summer learning loss of male and female adolescent learners. In addition, continued research and multi-year studies are suggested for summer learning programs for adolescent learners.

Publication Date

Fall 12-12-2020


Summer learning loss, summer slide, resources, socioeconomic disadvantage, rural, middle-school readers, summer learning, registration, attendance, book access, transportation, nutrition, STAR reading, benchmarks, literacy growth


Curriculum and Instruction | Educational Leadership | Language and Literacy Education


Kathrina M. O’Connell, Ed.D., will begin the 2020–2021 academic year as an assistant professor of Professional Education at Bemidji State University. She taught sixth graders and multilingual learners in a rural, Title I school for nine years. She has also taught in the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), Department of Defense Educational Activity (DoDEA), private, and international schools encompassing work with students in PreK through high school. She received both her master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language and doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from Minnesota State University Moorhead. Her research interests include literacy instruction, reading engagement, and students’ motivation to read.

Making Summer Learning Equitable for Students in a Rural, Title I School District: Turning on the Faucet of Resources