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Citation:Epstein, J. L., Herrick, S. C., & Coates, L. (1996). Effects of summer home learning packets on student achievement in language arts in the middle grades. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 7(4), 383-410. EJ537485.

The purpose of this study is to determine whether a program to direct learning activities at home during the summer had a measurable effect on student achievement in the fall, and to gauge the effectiveness of the program's implementation. The program had three goals: to communicate with parents and students during the summer, to encourage students and parents to review basic skills, and to increase teachersÕ understanding of the potential of parent involvement. Summer Home Learning Packets were developed for sixth and seventh grade students that contained language arts and math the first implementation year and science and health activities the second year. Teachers designed and selected the packet activities to help students maintain and improve skills and enhance skill retention over the summer months. Results indicated that after studentsÕ prior achievement scores or grades were taken into account, there was no significant independent effect of packet use on fall scores. However, this general result masked an informative interactive pattern that suggested some students made achievement gains by completing more of the summer activities, whereas other students' fall achievement was not influenced by summer packet use. Poor (lowest quartile) and fair (third quartile) students who were high packet users saw their scores increase more than expected in the fall. Better (top quartile) students who were high packet users remained at the top quartile more than those students in the top quartile who did not use the packets. Good (second quartile) students saw no significant effect of packet use. Student achievement was measured using the California Achievement Test before implementation. Fall semester grades were used as a post-test. The student population was 99 percent African American at the middle school in Baltimore. Researchers recommend that for future implementation teachers reconsider the schedule for distribution, and make the packets more fun and at the students' level of ability. The measure of prior achievement gives good estimates of ability, but does not indicate which skills students needed to practice in the summer. Also, the study relied on self-report by students about packet use and parent involvement.

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