Making the Most of the End of Summer
Voices interns Nicole Bibel and Sarah Rogers guest blog to share some of the findings about summer learning losses.
As summer quickly comes to an end it’s a great time to look at what summer vacation means for school performance, and how kids can stay engaged these last couple of weeks before heading back to the classroom. Studies spanning time, race, and socioeconomic status show that nearly all students score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer than they did on the same tests just a few months before. Parents must be aware of the need to continue their children’s learning throughout summer. The National Association of Summer Learning makes clear that encouraging children to remain engaged through activities like reading and exploring the world around them are beneficial; the learning doesn’t have to be strictly from a textbook. Voices for Alabama’s Children has recognized this and recently developed an information brief on summer learning loss and some possible solutions.
While it seems typical that students need a bit of time to “get back in the swing of things,” further studies show that in regards to the amount of lost learning there are huge gaps between socioeconomic classes. Students in lower economic classes lose a lot more over the summer when compared to their more affluent peers, and much of this gap exists because students in low-income families and communities tend to have less access to stimulating materials once they are out of school. A John Hopkins study found that these gaps not only persist over time, but they also accumulate, leading to an ever-widening and cumulative achievement gap throughout elementary and middle school.
In a recent New York Times article, Jeff Smink, policy analyst at the National Summer Learning Association, found that “by ninth grade, two-thirds of the achievement gap in reading could be traced to what happens during the summer.” This issue has been the subject of many recent articles, which discuss both the systemic problems and possible solutions. Many of those solutions are summer learning programs in the forms of summer camps. A few of the most successful summer learning programs have been cited by the Washington Post and USA Today, and we recommend that the public reviews these.
No matter what socioeconomic class, it’s important that all children keep reading and engaging in stimulating activities to prevent summer learning loss. In these last couple of weeks, encourage your kids to pick up a book, create a project, journal and or draw a picture about the best part of their summer so that they enter their next classroom alert and ready to learn!