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Welcome to Summer! Are Your Students Still Learning?

Frederick Brown image
Frederick Brown

Tomorrow is the first day of summer. My fellow educators, do you know what your students will be doing for the next few months? Will they come back in September with the knowledge and skills they gained during their last year with you? If you're not sure, please keep reading.

June 20 is Summer Learning Day, and it's a great time to share some thoughts around summer learning. The research is pretty clear on what happens when our children stop exercising their minds after the school year ends. Most youth lose some ground in math skills over the summer, but low-income children also lose more than two months in reading achievement (while their middle-income peers make slight gains). The effects of this "summer slide" are also cumulative, and significantly contribute to the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income children.

According to Making Summer Count, a research report commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and written by Rand, rigorous studies of voluntary summer programs, mandatory summer programs, and programs that encourage students to read at home in the summer have all found positive effectives on student achievement. The report states that the combined evidence from these studies suggests that all of these types of summer learning programs can mitigate summer learning losses and even lead to achievement gains.  The follow-up report from Rand, Getting to work on Summer Learning, offers some specific guidance to school district leaders interested in launching or improving summer learning programs. One key recommendation - start planning in January!

Many cities across the country have recognized the benefits of effective summer learning programs. The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) is one of the organizations working to help increase the number of providers offering high-quality summer learning programs to youth in high-needs districts. If you haven't seen their website, it's worth a look.

One of the cities prioritizing summer learning is Dallas, Texas. Dallas is home to Big Thought, an organization working with Dallas ISD and committed to mitigating the effects of summer learning loss. Big Thought's approach is to combine innovative learning experiences with community resources to help develop the capacities of the city's youth.

Does your city or town have summer learning programs that are aligned to your system's learning agenda? As a teacher or a leader, are you engaging with those programs so they can help you help your students retain what they learned? How else are you helping your students fight against summer learning loss?

My fellow educators, we simply work too hard to have all our efforts thwarted by the losses that occur during the summer. I urge you to read the research on summer learning loss and consider strategies to help your students return in September ready to learn something new (versus re-learn what they experienced last year). 

Happy Summer Learning Day! 

Frederick Brown
Director of Strategy and Development Learning Forward

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