It’s a fact. If students don’t exercise their brains over the summer months, they can lose up to three months of reading and math skills gained over the last school year. Low-income students are at the highest risk for summer learning losses, as they have less learning opportunities afforded to them over their summer vacation.
Summer learning programs can be as simple as giving a child books to read over the summer. Or they can be formally offered through a community center, school, church, or neighborhood to serve many kids in the community. In Baltimore County, the number of homeless students has doubled in the last five years. Homeless students are likely to suffer summer learning loses at twice the rate of their nonhomeless peers. That’s why Camp St. Vincent is offering a summer learning program for homeless students in the area. Their summer students are beating the odds and walking away from camp retaining more than 80 percent of their reading and math skills. 1
However, a summer learning program does much more for these students than improve their academic scores. They also gain a “sense of community and identity, self-esteem, and attention,” according to the article “Summer Camp for Homeless Helps Students Through Transition.”
Another story that shows the impact of a summer learning program is told in Gary Huggins’ recent article, “Untapped Strategy for Ed Reform: Summer Learning.” Huggins tells the story of one young man who started attending the Horizons program in Connecticut at the age of 12. Through the program, he improved his reading and math skills, but he also got exposed to experiences and opportunities outside of academia that were unknown to him. He went to his first Broadway show and he started swimming. By high school, he was a champion diver earning a college scholarship.2
Research has proven two-thirds of the achievement gap is due to unequal summer learning opportunities.3 We can’t bleed the schools of any more resources to give students over the summer months, so where do we turn? Communities, businesses, and private investors must acknowledge the achievement gap and see the summer months as a learning opportunity. Closing the achievement gap will directly and positively effect high school graduation rates, college entrance rates, college graduation rates, and career placement.
Gary Huggins says it well in his article:
“At a time when budgets are tight and resources are strained, we simply cannot afford to spend nearly 10 months of every year devoting enormous amounts of intellect, energy and money promoting student achievement, and then walk away from that investment each summer.”
What can you do this summer to make a difference in one underprivileged students life? How can you emphasize opportunities and initiative to your own children, neighbors, or those you know from your community efforts? How can you lead others around you with creative ideas that can promote summer learning, awareness, and collaboration?
1“Summer Camp for Homeless Helps Students Through Transition,” by Erica L. Green. 21 June 2012. Baltimore Sun. Accessed on 26 June 2012. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/education/bs-md-ci-homeless-summer-camp-20120621,0,6762810.story
2“Untapped Strategy for Ed Reform: Summer Learning,” by Gary Huggins. 19 June 2012. The Washington Post. Accessed on 26 June 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/untapped-strategy-for-ed-reform-summer-learning/2012/06/18/gJQA3L9amV_blog.html