Summer Learning Day—A Celebration and a Challenge

Guest post by Bob Seidel

This Friday, June 21, is Summer Learning Day.  It’s a day to celebrate summer learning successes—and to challenge all of us to make high-quality summer learning opportunities a reality for all who need them.

Why is this so important?  If we don’t exercise our brains for an entire summer, we lose much of what we’ve learned.  Research shows that, without stimulating summer activities, students tend to lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in math.  Low-income students also tend to lose more than two months in reading achievement.  The cumulative effects of summer learning loss mean that as much as two-thirds of the ninth-grade achievement gap in reading is attributable to differences in summer learning opportunities in the elementary years.

Summertime is also important for young people’s health and nutrition.  Without access to organized programs providing opportunities for exercise, young people’s tendency toward obesity becomes aggravated.  And among those who receive federally-subsidized meals during the school year, only one in seven receives those meals during the summer.

The good news is that there are effective solutions out there.  Research shows that high-quality summer learning programs not only stem summer learning loss, they help students make positive gains. A recently published report from California’s Partnership for Children and Youth, Summer Matters:  How Summer Learning Strengthens Students’ Success, showed that during a six-week program in the summer of 2012, students improved their vocabulary by nearly 1.5 grade levels [pdf, 2.9 MB].

In high-quality summer programs, partnerships that involve local school districts, community-based organizations, higher education institutions, government agencies, and/or businesses bring to bear a wide range of resources and opportunities for students.  Teachers have the chance to work in an environment that encourages innovation—such as project-based learning and other experiential and community-based methods—that they may not have time for during the school year.  And students benefit from personalized, intentional instruction that promotes academic as well as social and emotional development. The result often is learning that is particularly engaging and fulfilling for both students and teachers.

Read about outstanding examples of high-quality summer learning programs. Join the movement to expand summer learning opportunities for all youth. Here are some suggestions for how you can celebrate Summer Learning Day:

–    Attend or register a summer learning event in your area using the Summer Learning Map. Activities are taking place all summer long.
–    Share an info-graphic about the achievement gap [pdf, 371 KB] on social media to help make the case for summer learning.
–    Participate in a twitter chat on summer reading (#SLDRead) with the National Summer Learning Association (@SummerLearning) this Friday, from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET.
–    Check out tips for families on finding a local summer program or coming up with activities to continue learning and stay healthy at home.

Visit the National Summer Learning Association’s website for more ideas.

Bob Seidel is Senior Policy Director at the National Summer Learning Association.


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