Successful Secrets for After School and Summer Learning

Members of the National Panel of New Principals weigh in on success factors for after school and summer learning.

May 2016, Volume 39, Issue 9

For a complete and well-rounded education, students should be learning and growing outside of their day-to-day classes. One of the best ways to help kids become committed learners is through offering engaging after school and summer programming options.

Fortunately, the latest survey from the National Panel of New Principals, which asked members about after school enrichment and summer learning programs, paints a bright picture. It turns out that 86 percent of those surveyed have at least one after school or summer program, with half having both. And the vast majority of principals, nearly 90 percent, believe that after school programs are important. In terms of focus, most of the programs are aimed at academic instruction, which is good news, because it’s the top reason parents support after school and summer programs.

It is important to recognize how much these programs mean for kids, families, and principals. But what makes for a successful after school or summer program? Overall, panelists agreed on two essential ingredients:

1. Offer choice and variety. The most frequent advice was to design after school and summer programs to be relevant, engaging, and fun—where students can provide input and are given choices, activities are varied and interactive, and hands-on experiences are provided.

2. Staff the programs with dedicated, caring, passionate, high-quality professionals who are excited about the subject matter and have demonstrated an ability to motivate and make a difference in the lives of students.

Other popular success factors include:

  • Consistency in attendance makes a big difference; this can be boosted by enlisting parent support.
  • Connecting with learning from the school day makes it more powerful—but it’s a must to use different and creative techniques.
  • Spend time on pre-planning, organization, and structure, and offering PD for staff—you won’t regret it!
  • Providing healthy snacks and meals helps concentration—it is appreciated by students and their parents.

For the full results of the survey or to join the National Panel of New Principals, visit

Copyright © 2016. National Association of Elementary School Principals. No part of the articles in NAESP magazines, newsletters, or website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. For more information, view NAESP’s reprint policy.