Center for Social Research

Project Overview: Summer Learning Academy 2013

The CSR’s goal to revitalize our weblog to be current and more informative leads to a new type of post: a Project Overview post. There are several projects occurring simultaneously at CSR, so the idea behind project overviews is to give our readers a better understanding of the types of projects that we are involved in, while also thanking our clients for working with us.

Over the past 2 years, the DeVos Foundation has partnered with CSR to evaluate the effectiveness of programs that are integral to their Believe 2 Become initiative, some of which include their Baby Scholars program, Gatherings of Hope program, and Summer Learning Academy program. However, since the Summer Learning Academy programs have taken precedence for us during this time of year, it is opportune to coincide the beginnings of our project overviews with this academic initiative.

The Summer Learning Academy (SLA) programs provide nearly 2,000 students in the Grand Rapids community with a free opportunity to prevent summer learning loss. SLA programs welcome students from Pre-K to 12th grade and are available to both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking families. While the wide-reach of the SLA programs is already exemplified in their age and language inclusivity, the programs also attempt to extend their reach beyond socioeconomic status, as all 31 of their programs are free for the students who participate.

In addition to countering summer learning loss and integrating inclusivity, another goal of the SLA programs is to encourage students of all ages to consider attending college. With the research-based belief that the importance of a college education is increasing in our country, the SLA programs seek to cultivate two beliefs in students: that attending college is both desirable and attainable. One of the main ways that SLA programs foster these beliefs is by allowing the students to experience different colleges firsthand, with fieldtrips and tours of different campuses around Michigan.

For our 3rd year, CSR is simplifying the evaluating and analyzing processes for the SLA programs by creating and distributing surveys, collecting survey responses, and presenting that information graphically. We have created five types of surveys—pre- and post-surveys for the students, and post-surveys for the parents, program staff, and the program directors—using MS Word and the online survey design software Inquisite. Paper surveys are then distributed to and collected from the 31 SLA programs by CSR’s undergraduate Research Assistant staff throughout the summer.

After all the survey data is compiled, cleaned up and filtered, we can then export it into our visual analytics program, Tableau, to visually portray any data trends. These visual representations are helpful because they have proven to be more accessible to wide audiences, especially those outside of the social research domain. Finally, these graphics are placed into reports, along with written explanations, and returned to the DeVos Foundation for their internal review.

CSR’s involvement with SLA, then, aims to truthfully assess whether the programs are meeting their goals and report that information back to both the programs and their funders. While the specific outcomes of our research must currently remain internal, so far the SLA programs have had several positive influences on students, and are on a trajectory to keep improving.


Immerwahr, J. (2002, May). The affordability of higher education: A review of recent survey research. In Higher Education. Retrieved June 11, 2013, from

Lewin, T. (2010, September 21). Value of college degree is growing, study says. The New York Times, p. A18, from

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. (2008, August). The Growing Importance of Higher Education. Retrieved July 11, 2013, from

Summer Learning Academy. (2013). In I believe I become. Retrieved July 10, 2013, from

Posted by Michael Kelly on Monday, July 22, 2013 at 08:47 AM
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