Is summer school part of your district’s plan to help struggling students catch up with their peers? If so, you’ll want to know about some new research from the RAND Corporation. Their 117-page report on summer learning programs identifies key best practices that help low-performing students achieve high learning gains.

Don’t have time to read all 100+ pages? Here’s what you need to know:

Get parents involved: To find out what makes summer learning programs successful, researchers gathered data from dozens of studies and articles, as well as interviews with school, district, and national providers of summer learning programs. All that research identified parental involvement as a key piece in the summer learning puzzle. In fact, summer programs that got parents involved yielded bigger returns than those that didn’t, so getting mom, dad, grandma or grandpa on board should be at the top of your priority list. Use emails, flyers, parent-teacher conferences, and home reports to connect with parents. And don’t be afraid to share ideas for extending students’ learning at home—handouts like these and these can help you get started.

Provide individualized instruction: Researchers found that effective summer learning programs can “reverse summer learning loss, achieve learning gains, and give low-performing students the chance to master material that they did not learn during the previous school year.” How? With high-quality, individualized instruction, of course. Be sure to take advantage of your smaller class size this summer—make time to differentiate instruction and work with students individually or in small groups. Need some help? If your school uses Imagine Learning English, summer school is the perfect place to put the program’s custom-fit curriculum to work. If you don’t have Imagine Learning English, learn more about our program here.

Deliver engaging, rigorous learning experiences: Does your summer school curriculum focus on drill-and-kill remediation? You may want to re-think your approach. Research shows that innovative instruction and opportunities for enrichment keep students engaged and help them move forward in their learning. So don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit! Check out these ideas to help you start innovating.

Maximize enrollment and attendance: Students won’t benefit from your summer learning program if they don’t register—or attend consistently. Parental buy-in can help students keep coming throughout the summer, and so can incentives like prizes, awards, and fun enrichment opportunities like field trips. Find out what motivates your students and use that to help them commit to attending all summer long.

What are you doing to make sure your summer school yields maximum benefits? Share your ideas in a comment below.