Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Preventing Summer Learning Loss

When the school system in the United States was first established it was important that young people were available in the summer to work on the farm—to help water and harvest the crops that would keep the family going throughout the next winter. But that was then and this is now. Times have changed and few young people are out working on the farm. What we know now is that most young people do not engage in productive activities with adults and other youth like they did in summers past, they instead “hang with their friends”, watch TV or play video games, and if they are lucky, may go on vacation. What we have learned about this three month period is not comforting. Following are some facts that were published on the Children’s Aid Society web page at: http://www.childrensaidsociety.org/ :

Facts Two-thirds of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college (Alexander et al, 2007).

Most students lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, while their middle-class peers make slight gains (Cooper, 1996). When this pattern continues throughout the elementary school years, lower income youth fall more than two and one-half years behind their more affluent peers by the end of fifth grade.

Most children – particularly children at high risk of obesity – gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school during summer break (Von Hippel et al, 2007).

Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do (Duffet et all. 2004).

We are learning about the importance of summer learning opportunities at the same time that budget cuts have forced school districts to cancel summer programming. It is time to speak up about the importance of after-school programs that can operate summer programs. A blended model of credentialed teacher and after-school staff could be beneficial for both adults and certainly for the students. Contact your state Assemblyperson and Senator, and let them know you would like to operate program through the summer.

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