What You Need To Know: Summer Learning Loss

Ah, summer. A time for students to relax, join the family on a road trip, get a summer job…and forget much of what they learned during the school year?  It’s called summer learning loss and research shows students lose 2.6 months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills during the summer months. As for reading, the numbers vary greatly depending on the socioeconomic status of the student. Students from low-income families generally lose 2 months of reading skills, whereas students from middle-income families experience improvements in their reading performance. When students return to school in the fall, teachers usually spend the first couple of months, especially in math, going over, and re-teaching material their students were taught the year before, but forgot over the summer.

Also studies show summer learning loss widens the achievement gap for students. As can be seen in the graph below  from the National Summer Learning Association this achievement gap is especially large for students from low-income families. These youth are then often less likely to graduate, have trouble getting accepted into college, and are less successful later on in life.

A study done by Karl Alexander, a Sociology Professor at John Hopkins University found that the continued growth of the achievement gap between high and low income students could be directly correlated to summer learning loss. During the school year, lower income students’ skills improve at much the same rate as their peers from higher income families. But summer learning loss is cumulative, and the loss of information summer after summer can add up over time to become a much larger problem for students later in life, especially for students from low-income families.

Eradicating or dramatically reducing summer learning loss is key to raising student academic achievement as a whole and closing the rich-poor achievement gap in particular.  “If we can eliminate the summer gap, we can close the longstanding achievement gap between richer and poorer kids,” says Richard Allington, a professor of education at theUniversity ofTennessee and past president of the International Reading Association. “Two-thirds of the achievement gap occurs during the summers, not during the school year.”

So how exactly do you go about getting rid of this “brain drain”? Summer programs have been proven to help curb this summer learning loss. However these programs are often pricy and demand more time and transportation from parents who are working.

Gary Hugging, CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, a non-profit organization committed to the idea that all students should have equal access to summer learning programs, believes he has a solution to this problem. He says that schools and community groups need to work together in an effort to make programs that are both educational and fun. He also says that summer school needs to stop being viewed as “remedial and punishment” and school districts need to develop programs that are interesting and fun so that low-income students will want to attend.

Encouraging your student to read can help eliminate summer learning loss. Photo by MyTudut.

In Florida, Duval County Public Schools are already experimenting with this method. The district, which includes Jacksonville, is using federal funds to expand its summer school program, which they renamed, ” The Superintendent’s Academy.” Administrators even go to local housing projects to recruit low income students, who then participate in not just reading and math classes, but music, dance, physical education, and field trips. The school district says they are seeing dramatic progress in these students because of the program.

 

 

 

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