The Wallace Foundation Releases New Guide to Help School Districts Recruit Students for Voluntary Summer Learning Programs
Many public school districts are seeking to expand or launch voluntary summer learning programs, especially for children from low-income families. But once a program becomes available, will students attend? A new recruitment guide on how to market summer learning to parents and students offers guidance and detailed templates that districts and others can use to interest children and families in these programs and encourage their participation.
The resource, “Summer Learning Recruitment Guide,” is available online and in print and is based on the experiences of five large urban districts and their community partners that recruited thousands of children for voluntary summer learning programs. The National Summer Learning Project, supported by the Wallace Foundation, is the largest study ever to look at whether and how large-scale, voluntary summer learning programs offered by public school districts can help improve educational outcomes.
Even though the five participating districts—Boston, Dallas, Duval County, Fla., Pittsburgh, and Rochester—were committed to and experienced with running summer learning programs, they had limited experience in recruiting students. To assist, the Wallace Foundation engaged Crosby Marketing Communications to support the districts and their partner organizations in engaging parents and ultimately attracting students to the programs.
The new marketing guide contains advice drawn from the districts’ recruitment efforts over several years, including which strategies worked the best and why. It also contains insights from focus groups with more than 100 parents about how they think about summer and what would motivate them to sign their children up for voluntary summer learning programs.
The lessons and tools in the guide are also applicable to community-based organizations that need to effectively engage parents, children, and youth for voluntary programs.
“Studies have found that students from low-income families lose ground academically over the summer, and also are less likely than students from wealthier families to have access to enriching, non-academic experiences,” said Lucas Held of The Wallace Foundation, which released the guide in partnership with Crosby Marketing Communications of Annapolis, Md. “Many of these parents and students aren’t used to thinking of summer as an opportunity for learning, so it was important to listen to them and to market voluntary summer learning opportunities in ways that would appeal to them and to their children.”
For example, while parents were protective of their children’s time during the summer, they valued the mix of fun and academics offered in the voluntary programs. Although parents weren’t charged a fee, they didn’t like the word “free,” associating it with a possible lack of quality. Terms such as “no-cost” were more appealing, as were the words “register” or “sign up” rather than “apply,” which connoted selectivity, the guide says...