Sliding through Summer
Slide trombone, slide rule, slide whistle, microscope slide, water slide, baseball slide, academic slide . . . wait! ACADEMIC slide?
Yes, the academic slide, more commonly known as ‘summer slide’ or ‘brain drain’ describes the achievement levels that students routinely lose over the long months of summer vacation.
Most teachers are quick to admit that the first weeks of any school year are spent reviewing old material before they can start introducing new material. Research backs this up. A recent University of Missouri study, “Stop Summer Loss: An Education Policy Priority,” found that the majority of students lose about one month of math skills, while low-income students also lose up to three months of reading skills.
If this were not bad enough, research has revealed a more sinister effect. In addition to the one to three months of lost academic skills among low-income students, the effect of summer loss seems to be cumulative and a contributing factor towards the achievement gap between wealthier and poorer students. A John Hopkins study which included over twenty years of data, showed that poor children experience a “summer slide” while their more affluent peers continued to make progress over the summer. As year followed year, the poorer children were never able to fully catch up. Thus, what began as a one to three month learning loss snowballed into a one to three YEAR learning loss.
So why the difference between wealthier and poorer students? Research shows that during the school year, both demographic groups learn at basically the same rate. The difference is what happens to students over the summer. Children from higher socio-economic families are routinely engaged in stimulating conversation, multiple cultural opportunities, and travel. Poorer children, on the other hand, are much more likely to spend their summers in front of a television set or on the streets.
These are tough economic times. No doubt about it. Money is in short supply for thousands of parents across Middle Georgia. Are the poorer children among us doomed already? Fortunately, no!
Research is also very clear that the attitude of parents towards education is THE most important factor when it comes to the overall success of their children in school. Parents can foster a love of learning in their children by holding education in the highest esteem and by taking advantage of programs and activities that are available in the community. All it takes is some ingenuity and the perseverance to follow through.
Susan Powell, K-5 Math Coach for Houston County Schools says, “Parents can help their children stay sharp during their summer break by involving children in educational activities in their community. Read books together or enroll them in a summer reading program through your local library. Weekly trips to the grocery store can be used to practice math that has been learned during the school year. If internet access is available in the home, children can go to educational websites and practice both reading and math by playing fun games.”
Dr. Jake Walters, Headmaster of Covenant Academy, concurs, “The best advice for parents in helping to prevent summer learning loss is to read. To have their child read individually and to take opportunities to read together as a family. The ability to read and to comprehend what has been read is a life long skill that must be continuingly cultivated.”
Summer should afford children respite from classrooms where teachers hover over them. But summer should never be a vacation from learning! This is especially true in the early elementary years when any child who falls behind tends to stay behind.
Reading is Fundamental (RIF) president and CEO Carol Rasco says, “Motivating children to read throughout the year is essential to building lifelong readers. And reading is the doorway to all other learning.”
Students should read something every single day. Whether it is newspapers, recipes, magazines, or TV guides; the important thing is to READ. Reading out loud to a parent or listening to a parent read out loud builds listening/comprehension skills and expands knowledge and vocabulary.
First Lady, Michelle Obama, is personally involved in a new summer program called, Let’s Read. Let’s Move. This program, sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the U.S. Departments of Education, Interior, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture, emphasizes reading and exercise in order to strengthen young minds and bodies.
With summer vacation just around the corner, it is imperative for parents to continue educational opportunities for their children when school is dismissed. Now is the time to investigate the possibilities! Helping your child with meaningful instruction this summer might just be what precipitates a SLIDE into a successful year NEXT year!
What Can You Do?
/ Take your child to a museum
/ Visit the public library often (booklists are offered for children of all ages)
/ Arrange for lessons (music, swimming, art, dance, cooking, etc.)
/ Enroll them in recreation sports
/ Enroll them in a camp (computer or church)
/ Take them on day trips (to reinforce Social Studies facts)
/ Have an “at home” excursion (rent travel/nature videos of faraway places)
/ Encourage them to begin writing in a journal (hones writing skills)
/Play WITH your children outside
/ Check out available summer programs at your local school
/ Teach your children to volunteer (local nursing homes or assisted living homes)
/ Barter with your friends (I’ll teach your children to do this, if you teach mine how to do that)
By Nancy Schriner