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How to minimize summer learning loss for students

Resource type: News

The Daily Advertiser |

Original Source by Ledyard King Gannett News Service WASHINGTON – For kids pouring out of school this month, the hazards of summer go far beyond sunburns and bug bites. Many children – especially poor ones – will take a step back academically as the lessons learned during the school year fade. They’ll need to catch up in the fall, said Ron Fairchild, executive director of the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Fairchild, 35, talked with Gannett News Service about “summer learning loss” and what schools and parents can do to help kids. Question: What is summer learning loss? Answer: It’s based on research that goes back to 1906 that shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of the summer than they do on the same test at the beginning of the summer. If kids aren’t engaged in ongoing learning activities over the summer, they are going to lose ground in reading and math. We would expect an athlete’s or a musician’s performance to suffer if they didn’t practice. Q: What happens to kids during the summer? A: Most of us have a wonderful image of what summer is all about for young people and it’s a time for something different: for recreation, for vacation, for creative exploration. But summer represents a time of real struggle for many families to provide resources for their kids, like healthy meals, adult supervision and educational enrichment. Q: So it affects poorer kids most? A: Absolutely. Young people in high-poverty communities face much greater risk of experiencing summer learning loss than their high-income peers. Roughly, all kids lose about the same amount of ground in their math performance during the summer. The story is different for reading, where low-income kids lose more than two months of reading performance whereas middle-income kids typically stagnate. It has an incredible impact on their achievement. Q: Is this an argument for year-round schools? A: No, it’s an argument for year-round learning. In fact, what we’ve seen in studies of year-round schools is that taking the same 180 days and spreading them throughout the year has minimal impact. What we think is the most powerful solution is engaging kids in an additional six-week, high-quality learning program. Q: What can parents do? A: Parents can find high-quality summer learning programs in their community. Find some fun things for kids to do to keep them motivated and learning. Think of their interests and find books and resources to explore those interests. Visit the public library and participate in summer reading programs. Take educational trips to parks, museums, science centers, arts and cultural institutions. Q: What about schools? A: They should be providing lists of books that kids can read over the summer months, working to create these high-quality summer programs in their schools and partnering with other organizations like community groups that use the school during the summer to run programs. As the school year draws to a close, teachers can communicate with parents of kids in the grade lower than the one they’re teaching about what those kids should do in the summer months so they get ready for the next grade. Q: So a family vacation can help academic performance? A: If it’s structured the right way, it can. If you’re going somewhere, you can get kids reading about the trip before they go, create some exercises in geography and map skills for preparing the route, and look for opportunities to visit educational sites. And for young kids, putting together a scrapbook after the trip would involve reading, writing and literacy skills. The Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University is an Atlantic Grantee.

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Center for Summer Learning