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Bored Perhaps, But Learning

I’ve already heard more than a few times the dreaded words of a child in the midst of summer break: “I’m bored.” Or my daughter’s version: “I’m Sooooo bored!” Of course the complaint is not an accurate reflection of summer vacation for many middle- and upper-income children, who have a wealth of activities lined up to keep them busy until the next school bell.

They tend to learn from those library and museums visits, family outings and vacations, summer camps and sporting events, albeit subconsciously or involuntarily.

A recent report from researchers at Johns Hopkins University concludes that the lessons learned during summer—or not learned--tend to contribute to the significant gap in achievement between children from more privileged backgrounds and their economically disadvantaged peers.

Education Week’s Scott Cech writes about the report, "Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap," here.

While learning gains are “more nearly equal” among students of various socioeconomic backgrounds during the school year, they tend to diverge quite dramatically during the summer months, according to the report. Researchers Karl L. Alexander, Doris R. Entwisle, and Linda Steffel Olson, culled longitudinal data from 325 Baltimore students from 1st grade to age 22 and found that students from relatively well-educated, economically secure homes saw significant increases in their test scores.

But Mr. Alexander, a sociology professor, cautions that there is no checklist of experiences that accounts for the disparities in performance.

“It’s important to point out a deeper reality, that in middle class or non-disadvantaged families, day-in and day-out the life experiences are qualitatively different than less well-off children,” he said.

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