Summer Step Up

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) has developed an innovative approach to supporting public schools throughout the Commonwealth that are offering summer “step up” programs providing extra support to young learners entering school in the fall. This approach will support school districts in giving young children an extended in-person learning experience over the summer to help prepare them to enter school in the fall.

Public School districts can submit an interest form to receive supports from national partners and local consultants as well as financial resources to work with community partners in expanding and enhancing summer learning programs targeted to young learners. The Summer Step Up Program can support up to fifty (50) public school districts to implement high-quality summer programming that meets the minimum criteria, including academically rigorous and developmentally appropriate curriculum targeting young learners who have had limited in-person school and program experience due to the pandemic.

Program Goals:

  • Create, extend, or enhance in-person summer experiences for young children who have had limited access to in-school experiences due to COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Support school districts to provide evidence-based summer learning services/supports in collaboration with community partners that prepare young learners for school entry in the fall.
  • Partner with local and national experts to provide tailored materials that support high-quality in-person learning experiences that are aligned to school district goals and provide resources to community partners to support school entry goals.
  • Identify, outreach, and engage Massachusetts families with young children in the early grades that were eligible to enroll in Massachusetts public schools in the 2020-2021 school year but either opted out of school district services, withdrew throughout the year, or had limited engagement with remote offerings provided by the public schools.
  • Prepare young learners transitioning into early childhood special education, pre-k, kindergarten, first grade, and second grade, targeting outreach for enrollment to those that did not participate in instruction offered by Massachusetts public schools.
  • Invest in infrastructure that can support building innovative community collaborations begun during COVID and improve coordination across support services for young children and families as communities recover.


The local program must take place in person, but can be delivered in any local setting, including camps or childcare programs.  To be supported by this program, services to incoming students across settings must be coordinated by the school district the children will be entering in the Fall of 2021.

Days and Hours:

A 6-week, 6.5-hour day program (total of 29 days, including July 4th holiday) should be provided for rising kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders. A shorter program day may be offered for rising pre-k and early childhood special education students, based on the length of the school day offered for those students by the particular district. Community partnerships will work together to offer extended-day care so that working families can access the program. Districts may consider community partnerships to implement any part of the program appropriate to the population being prioritized for services.

Grade Levels:

Rising pre-k, kindergarten, first grade, and second grade students and early childhood special education students, with specific target populations being defined at the local level based on data and analysis of family need.

Curriculum and Supports:

Communities can adapt curriculum currently used in the district or work with national and local technical assistance partners offered through the Summer Step Up Program to address the following areas of school readiness skills for young learners:

  • Classroom expectations and routines, typically a large focus in the early grades as students are introduced to the school environment
  • Fostering social-emotional skills, especially in preparation for the resumption of in-person learning with peers
  • Early literacy, including exposure to culturally relevant books and developmentally appropriate writing activities
  • Early math, including hands-on and play-based activities

The technical assistance providers will develop materials that will be used to create or enhance high-quality summer learning experiences for young learners, provide professional development and technical assistance to community teams, and develop or support data collection and tools to inform ongoing quality improvement efforts and assess child progress.

Use of Funding:

Funding is available to support community collaborations in meeting the goals of the Summer Step Up Program. Funding will be tiered to the services being proposed by the local community, and appropriate for the number of children being served. Based on 50 communities participating, between $100,000 and $150,000 will be available to each community.

United Way’s Role:

United Way will provide on-the-ground technical assistance and project management across communities. United Way staff will work closely with community leaders to convene partners, design the program, and provide facilitation, coaching, and technical assistance based on the specific needs of the proposed program. United Way will contract with the community partners to provide funding to support the efforts of the Summer Step-Up Program.

How to Join the Summer Step Up Program:

School district leaders should complete the district interest form to express interest in the program and to provide some baseline information. A member of the United Way team will follow up after receiving the survey information to begin planning for the summer.

Please contact Sarah Link, Vice President of Community Impact at United Way of Massachusetts Bay, at or 617-624-8155 with questions.