It is a common belief that once you have learned how to ride a bike it is something that you will never forget. Too bad that is not the truth when it comes to academic learning—say the quadratic equation formula you memorized in Algebra or the Periodic Table of Elements you used to know. The fact is, in most cases, if you don’t use it, you lose it, and that is exactly what is meant by summer learning loss.
The facts about summer learning loss are staggering. Here are just a few of them:
- All children experience learning loss when they do not engage in learning activities in the summer.
- More than ½ of the achievement gap can be explained by understanding summer learning loss.
- By the end of 5th grade, children who have not participated in summer learning are 2-3 years behind their peers.
- Not only do summer account for learning loss they also account for downturns in health indicators. Youth are 2-3 times more like to gain weight in the summer than they are during the school year. Also, nutritionally, many youngsters struggle because there is simply not enough to eat.
In agrarian America we needed the 3 months of summer so youth could help out on the family farm—planting and harvesting groups, literally and figuratively, making hay while the sun shone. Young people were busy, learning about the farm from their adult relatives, interacting with others, and certainly being physically active. Learning loss was not an issue! Fast forward to the 21st Century and instead of active, involved summers, many youth are at home, unsupervised, sitting on the couch watching TV or playing video games. The effects of this inactivity both physically and academically compound the factors that place students “at risk”.
Very little money is allocated for summer learning. With budget cuts, even traditional summer school is not available to most kids. A recent study published by the National Summer Learning Association concludes by saying, “We must recognize that summers are critical for closing the achievement gap, and that health is integrally intertwined with academic achievement." Children and youth need accessible and affordable summer options that support and promote continued learning—and those same options must include a concerted focus on health.” There are pockets of summer programs across the country. These are supported by local entities in most cases. The Walmart Foundation, the National Summer Learning Association, and United Way Worldwide are taking the lead to elevate the importance of healthy summers for young people.
It’s your turn to weigh in—what are your thoughts about summer learning?
Let's take a glance at the difference between Summer School and Summer Learning.