Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why Summer Learning Matters

By Grace Troccoli, VISTA Summer Associate at NC Campus Compact. Grace is a rising senior at Elon University, majoring in Special and Elementary Education and minoring in History. 

As a future teacher, nothing irks me more then when kids return to school in the fall and have forgotten all of their multiplication facts or have fallen several months behind in reading. Yet this phenomenon is a common occurrence in classes I work with and in other classes across America each fall.

Why? Because the lack of kids’ summer learning causes learning loss.
("Summer Learning Day")

In fact, studies since 1906 have consistently shown that most students regress in their learning during the summer. Over the summer, students have been shown to lose about two months of learning in math. Additionally, low-income students typically lose two months of learning in reading while their middle-class peers typically make slight gains in reading.  These consistent summer learning losses add up; summer learning loss accounts for two thirds of the ninth grade achievement gap in reading (Fairchild, 2008).

Yet despite these facts, an estimated 43 million children in the United States miss out on summer learning opportunities (Fairchild, 2008).This means that 43 million children in the U.S. are at risk for summer learning loss or are at risk for falling behind in school.

This reality is especially true for low-income families.  An analysis from an early childhood longitudinal study found that 46% of low-income children visited a library over the summer months compared to the 80% of their high-income peers who visited a library. 20% of low-income children visited an art, science or discovery museum over the summer while 62% of high-income children visited a museum.  Lastly, 43% of high-income children attended a camp over the summer while only 5% of low-income students attended a camp  (Blazer, 2011).

The disparities are great and the learning stakes are high, so what do we do about summer learning loss?

I am part of a VISTA Summer Associate program sponsored by AmeriCorps and North Carolina Campus Compact. Several of my fellow Summer Associates are supporting great summer learning programs. Here in Alamance County, Anna Lewis is supporting the Elon Academy which is a college access and success program for academically promising high school students with a financial need and/or no family history of college.  This summer the 69 scholars will spend a month on Elon University's campus taking college planning classes and academic enrichment courses in addition to participating in leadership development community service activities. Additionally, Jenna Nelson is supporting a program at the Boys and Girls Club that provides educational and leisure activities for kids in grades K-12.

In Madison County, NC, four Summer Associates are supporting the PAGE summer program. The Partnership for Appalachian Girls Education (PAGE) offers two, 3-week sessions for local adolescent girls from low-income families. The program focuses on digital literacy, college access, and literature while building on girls' critical thinking and leadership skills.

Other Summer Associates are supporting hunger-related projects that include nutrition education, which creates opportunities for summer learning on topics related to science and health. In addition to these programs, many other campus- and community-based programs across our state and nation are working to prevent summer learning loss.

If you care about summer learning loss, please join us in celebrating Summer Learning Day this Friday, June 20th! 

Summer Learning Day is a national advocacy day, sponsored by the National Summer Learning Association, that promotes the importance of summer learning.

There are many ways that you can celebrate Summer Learning Day!

For example, you can:
  • Celebrate Summer Learning Day with children you work with by: 
    • Reflecting with kids about what they want to learn this summer and help them form summer learning goals.
    • Creating a way to celebrate kids’ summer learning. For example, you could display kids' summer learning work around the room.
    • Implementing a long-term summer learning challenge. For example, you could challenge kids to read for a certain amount of minutes by the end of the summer. 
  • Spread awareness about the importance of summer learning in your community by sharing the Achievement Gap Info Graphic or Summer Learning Day Key Messages.
  • Spread awareness about Summer Learning Day through social media  by: 
For more ideas, check out the National Summer Learning Association’s suggestions here.

So, on Friday, June 20th, highlight the importance of summer learning in your community by celebrating Summer Learning Day and remember…

“You're never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”- Dr. Seuss

Works Cited
Blazer, C. (2011). Summer Learning Loss: Why its Effect is Strongest Among Low-income Students and  How it can be  Combated. Information Capsule , 1011.  
Fairchild, R. (2008). Summer: A Season When Learning is Essential. Afterschool Alliance Issue Briefs (33).
"Summer Learning Day." National Summer Learning Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 June 2014.