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Summer Learning is a Big Deal


In a recent New York Times op-ed, Jeff Smink of the National Association for Summer Learning, a Coalition partner, discussed how summer learning loss plays a key role in the achievement gap. He argues the importance of year-round educational and enrichment opportunities for all students.

He notes, "This learning loss is cumulative summer after summer. It has a tremendous impact on students’ success, including high school completion, post-secondary education and work force preparedness." Smink further explains that this impact is more pronounced for lower-income, because they are more likely to spend their summers without intellectual stimulants, whereas more privileged students are often provided with a variety of enriching summer camps and family vacations. He cites a John Hopkins University study, which found that "about two-thirds of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income ninth graders could be explained by summer learning loss during the elementary school years".

As research on this issue has reached education officials, many schools have undertaken measures to address it: Smink points to the efforts of several school districts to create comprehensive programs that extend learning throughout the summer, focusing especially on framing them as "summer camp" – offering both academic and non-academic activities - than "summer remedial education", which has long been the stigma of such programs.

Community schools across the nation are highly invested in expanding learning opportunities for all students. For example, Cincinnati, Ohio’s Community Learning Centers have implemented a "Fifth Quarter," which extends the school year into June. Cincinnati’s schools partner with local organizations and agencies to provide students with both school-centric studies, such as reading and math, as well as a variety of activities like martial arts and music. The Fifth Quarter also includes an "acceleration" component, which prepares students for the next grade. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, summer camps are run directly through the community schools, ensuring that families have easy access to summer programs for their children. Programs such as these can serve as models, not just for community schools, but for schools across the nation seeking to provide the necessary services to give all students the education they require and deserve.

Read Jeff Smink’s op-ed here.

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