Everyone loves summer. As soon as the last school bell rings, students grab their backpacks and race out the door, leaving all thoughts of dangling participles, quadratic equations and conjugated verbs behind. And what happens next? Sometimes it’s camp or summer reading programs or maybe even summer school. More often it’s a lot of TV watching, video games, social media, going out with friends, and avoiding anything that looks remotely like a book. Does this mean that every student is doomed to fall behind?
The Achievement Gap Widens Over Summer
Math skills of nearly all students dip during the summer. However, reading and language skills of higher income children often continue to grow while the literacy skills of lower income children tend to decline over the summer. A popular topic in education today is the “achievement gap”, which refers to the difference in academic performance between groups of students. It turns out that the achievement gap between upper and lower class students widens every summer and has a substantial cumulative effect. More than half of the achievement gap between lower-and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities.1 The cumulative effect of the achievement gap can seriously change the course of a student’s life, making it nearly impossible for them to keep up with their peers and achieve their goals.
Summer Learning Improves Success
When the research is analyzed, it becomes clear that summer learning programs shouldn’t be a luxury or just an afterthought when there’s nothing else to do. Summer learning – no matter if it’s at a camp, a charter school, or a traditional high school – has a real positive impact on both academic and social-emotional development. It provides structure to children’s summer experiences, making it more likely that they will stay engaged and focused and out of trouble. It also keeps their academic skills polished and in some cases, makes it possible for them to get ahead.
One of the best things about summer learning is that students proceed at a more leisurely pace, with less pressure, and focus on one subject at a time. This kind of situation is ideal for reigniting students’ love of learning. It gives them the freedom to learn at their own pace, thus increasing their confidence and helping them feel more prepared at the beginning of the next school year—setting them up for success right from the start! When students don’t experience the summer gap in learning, they are much more likely to keep up with their peers and graduate high school on time.
Free Summer School Programs Are Available
Parents who are interested in enrolling their children in summer programs don’t need to let cost be a deterrent. Many school districts have begun adapting free programs after becoming aware of how crucial summer school is to children’s development. Opportunities For Learning is one of the charter schools in California that offers free summer school classes to students in grades 7-12. There are lots of options for summer learning, including: summer camps, summer reading programs, public charter school classes and tutoring. According to research2, the three elements of summer learning programs that promote the highest levels of student success are:
- Small classes
- Individualized instruction
- Parental involvement
Take these three factors into consideration when choosing a summer program near you to ensure that your child has a successful and productive summer school experience!
1 Leveraging Summer for Student Success. Summer Matters Partnership for Children & Youth (2014).
2 Augustine, C., Bodilly, S., Cross, A., Lichter, D., McCombs, J., McInnis, B., Schwartz, H. Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children’s Learning. RAND Corporation (2011).