“How much arithmetic does a pupil forget in a summer vacation?”
“Is this loss made good, or more than good, by a week or two of review in the fall?”
These questions are relevant today, but they are not quotes from a recent article on summer learning loss. These are the questions asked in 1906 by William F. White, a professor of mathematics at the State Normal School in New York. He authored one of the early studies documenting the loss of math skills among school age children after summer break.
For more than a century, educators have documented, studied and tried to combat summer learning loss. It has become well known that all children are prone to losing math skills during the summer, and modern studies show the loss of reading skills is also an issue, especially among children from low-income families.
The National Summer Learning Association highlights one reason for the reading gap that exists based on household income; children in middle- or upper-income homes have more access to summer camps and enjoy more family time, resulting in more trips to museums, parks, libraries and other enriching activities. As a result of this disparity in opportunity, students from middle-income families make slight gains in reading skills over the break, while students from low-income households lose more than two months of reading achievement.
Summer learning loss is cumulative. The educational setbacks build over time which results in many kids from low-income families falling further behind their peers year after year. This gap occurs even though 66% of teachers say they spend at least 3 to 4 weeks re-teaching the previous years’ skills at the start of the new school year.
This “Summer Slide” is far from inevitable. A growing number of districts have turned to year-round schedules or extended school years to combat summer learning loss. This option also meets the child care needs of modern working families. For schools without a year-round schedule, summer programs offer a way to target educational enrichment courses to high-risk students.
Summer programs do require additional funding but are well worth the money. A 2011 Wallace Foundation report, Making Summer Count, found school districts that run summer programs spend less per-week, per-student than during the normal academic year. In some cases, the cost of summer activities was less than two-thirds the cost of regular school year programs.The report also found students attending summer programs have better educational outcomes compared to their peers who do not attend.
It is encouraging to see that Congress passed a spending bill restoring most of the summer program funding that was cut due to sequestration. However, costs are still a concern in many states where education funding is still tight. The National Summer Learning Association has a resource, “Moving Summer Learning Forward: A Strategic Roadmap for Funding in Tough Times” to help state and local leaders develop and fund high quality summer programs.
Even as more schools and organizations move to expand summer learning programs, finding free or affordable full-time programs may not be possible for all families. For proactive parents, there are still options to help kids retain what they have learned during the school year.
The Wallace Foundation found summer reading programs can have a positive effects on learning and help prevent summer learning loss. And, for families with internet access, there are online resources designed to help children keep their math skills sharp during the summer.
Several resources addressing summer learning loss are listed below. Parents and educators can also follow the “Summer Learning Day” discussion on Twitter by using the #SummerLearning hashtag.
- The Tulsa City-County Library has an extensive Summer Reading Program and begins May 27th. There are hundreds of events occurring at library locations all over Tulsa County. Families can also pick up a reading log at any library and if kids visit the library four times and read at least 8 books this summer, they earn a medal and a coupon book good for food and entertainment, which includes discounts for sporting events and museums.
- Tulsa Public Schools have a list up for this year’s summer programs.
- Tulsa Kids also has a list of camps and other summer activities.
- PBS has ideas for Summer Math Learning and an Electric Company: Summer Learning Program to help families keep their kids engaged all summer long.
- Edutopia also provides ideas and projects to keep children engaged in learning over the summer.
- The U.S. Department of Education has a blog that offers tips for “Stopping the Summer Slide.”
- The Oklahoma State Department of Education has a link to a Summer Math Challenge designed for students who have completed Grade 2 through 5. It is a free, six-week, email based program incorporating both state and Common Core standards.
- Step 1: Go to quantiles.com/summer-math to enroll your child.
- Step 2: Starting Monday, June 23, check your inbox for daily emails with fun math activities and resources.
- Step 3: Visit quantiles.com/summer-math every day to read about the weekly math concept and earn badges.
- Step 4: When the program ends Friday, August 1, print and award certificate to celebrate your child’s summer accomplishment.