K-12 Learning and Enrichment Programs

A multi-ethnic group of elementary age children are listening to their teacher read a storybook in class.

The pandemic’s disruption to education not only severely impacted academic learning for millions of U.S. students, particularly marginalized youth, but also limited opportunities for enrichment and socialization. To accelerate learning recovery, learning and enrichment programs, long a part of education enhancement initiatives, were boosted to help states, school districts, and community partners roll out quality summer learning and enrichment programs, key tools to enhance educational outcomes.

Building Regional Capacity

ED-sponsored comprehensive centers provide capacity-building services to state, regional, and local education agencies (LEAs) and to schools for improving education outcomes, closing achievement gaps, and boosting the quality of instruction. In 2022, 3 centers operated by Westat received supplemental funding to support recovery from the pandemic. The National Comprehensive Center provides national training and online tools supporting evidence-based strategies and resources most likely to accelerate student learning and expand high-quality, high-impact afterschool and summer programs. The Region 14 Comprehensive Center extends literacy work and accelerates students’ reading recovery among Louisiana school systems and families. The Region 5 Comprehensive Center uses a robust teacher residency program to bolster the post-pandemic educator workforce.

Meeting Communities Where They Are

On a state-level view, Westat has provided the assistance needed to address COVID-related learning loss. We have assisted LEAs in accelerating student learning through tutoring and afterschool programs. Our team provides specialized technical assistance and training tailored to districts, fostering a comprehensive and effective approach to support students in their academic and emotional recovery. We customize support for districts, addressing their students’ unique post-pandemic challenges, and provide similar services to hundreds of  programs. We have been credited for the significant academic improvements in reading and math from this work.

Enrichment activities and academic support can take many forms to meet the needs of communities. LEAs and community-based organizations have established centers to provide quality learning programs for students attending high-poverty, low-performing schools. They also encourage families to more fully participate with their children’s learning. Westat helps provide educators with tools, resources, evidence-based best practices, and trainings to create opportunities for exciting and seamless informal learning after school. In that space, we blend technology with active, hands-on activities to help students improve their behavior and enhance their understanding of math, science, reading, and English, if that is their second language.

We are also working with the Wallace Foundation to understand how states and districts have responded to this call to action to use afterschool programming to boost learning. This multimethod study captures lessons about programs and provides findings and important descriptive additions to the evidence base on summer learning and enrichment.

The Path Ahead

As we move forward, we continue to work with our federal, state, and nonprofit partners to explore the relationships between program quality, student engagement, and student short- and long-term outcomes. We use evidence-based practices and advanced technology, to entice and win students to learning, always using an equity lens to level the playing field and empower students to make positive changes.


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