Winning Tactics For Avoiding Summer Learning Loss

Summer Learning Loss

As kids head back to school, most parents share a common worry. Will my child be up to speed with their peers? “Brain drain” is a common phenomenon that takes its toll on many, if not most, children during the warm, hazy summer months. Thanks to summer programs offered by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), parents will no longer have to worry because these programs will keep their child’s brain sharp! Teachers also can take a deep breath because the lessons they worked so hard to instill will not evaporate. Together parents and teachers can use these programs to stem the tide of summer learning loss!

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What is Summer Learning Loss?

This fall as children reluctantly bid goodbye to the carefree days of summer play to return to school, many of them will share a common disadvantage: summer learning loss. This educational setback, which is also known as “summer slide”, has fascinated researchers since 1906. On average, students lose the equivalent of one month’s worth of learning over the course of the summer.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) compared both early and current research regarding summer learning loss and provided suggestions to the school districts and states that are struggling to find a solution to this annual problem.

What the Research About Summer Learning Loss Shows

Early literature on the subject indicated that students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by one month’s worth of learning, the decline in the retention of knowledge was sharpest for math, and the loss was greater for higher grades. The literature also showed income-based reading gaps grew during the summer months because lower-income families often did not encourage reading as much as middle-class families. Interestingly, the authors did not find a decided difference in the levels of math retention when comparing the children by class. The factors of race and gender did not prove to be influential in either subject.

An examination of the recent literature on summer learning loss has resulted in a mixed outcome. In one study conducted in a southern state spanning four years (2008-2012), data was gathered from over half a million students in grades 2-9 and found that students lost an average of 25-30 percent of their school-year learning over the summer.

An analysis of the nationally representative Early Childhood Longitudinal Study consisting of the Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 (ECLS-K:2011) found little evidence to support a learning loss over the summers of grades K and 1. A re-analysis of two earlier data sets conducted by Von Hippel and Hamrock determined that gaps in learning “do not necessarily…grow fastest over the summer.” (p.41)

Apparently, summer learning loss and summer gap-growth do occur. Fortunately, this phenomenon is not universal amongst geography, grade level, or subject.

A Plausible Explanation For Summer Learning Loss

The “faucet theory” developed by Entwisle, Alexander, and Olson offers an alternative explanation for why lower-income students retain less over the summer than higher-income students. The theory compares the school year to a “resource faucet” that enables all students to make learning gains. The flow of resources slows to a trickle or dries up completely during the summer for students of disadvantaged background while the “resource faucet” remains constant and steady for students who possess the advantage of a higher-income family and thereby continues to facilitate learning.

Summer Learning Loss Statistics

A current statistic from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) estimates that 43 million kids are unable to access multiple summer learning activities that would maintain their learning retention ability. Unfortunately, they often fall behind as a result. These low-income children are ultimately impacted by the cumulative effect of summer learning loss and risk graduating late.

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The Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) has launched a program to prevent summer learning loss called Summer Brain Gain that integrates seamlessly with a traditional summer schedule for boys and girls across America.

Summer Brain Gain Program Prevents Summer Learning Loss

Summer Brain Gain is composed of one-week modules involving activities for students of all grades that are fun and engaging while at the same time aligning with common core anchor standards. The themed activities program is supported by Disney and features a project-based learning approach.

A literary extension of the program called Summer Brain Gain: Read! features innovative ways to improve and enrich reading skills by introducing one new book per week to every age group. Each title is supported by activities to bring the book’s adventures to life for the child.

Thus far, evaluation suggests that the Summer Brain Gain program has been a success. Participating members experienced no significant losses in early literacy, math, or reading. There was also a notable increase in math skills among those participating in the program.

A meta-analysis of 41 summer reading programs from 35 studies was conducted by Kim and Quinn, revealing that summer reading programs are effective at raising test scores. One of the most effective low-income, home-based summer reading programs for upper elementary school students is called READS for Summer Learning.

My.Future Program Can Also Prevent Summer Learning Loss

BGCA is also committed to engaging young minds all summer. Four critical components of a child’s education are emerging as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, abbreviated in the form of STEM. The organization actively participates in utilizing the summer months to provide students with a greater mastery of digital literacy and computer science.

BGCA partnered with Comcast NBCUniversal in developing the innovative digital platform called My.Future. This program embraces today’s modern technology for students while assisting them in showcasing their work. Students can earn recognition for their academic achievements by earning stars, badges, and master badges.

Research shows that amongst 10 to 13-year-olds that use computers and Internet access:

  • 81% use computers to do homework
  • 44% use computers to write stories or blogs
  • 40% use computers to connect with their teachers

My.Future also assists students in their exploration of online activities like gaming by providing a safe, digital environment. This platform features an online space free of cyberbullying. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, half of all young people have experienced a form of cyberbullying and 10-20% experience it on a regular basis. My.Future is just one tool of many that BGCA provides in an effort to help children close the educational gap and eliminate summer learning loss.

Conclusion

In conclusion, summer vacation poses a potential roadblock to the academic success of children from underprivileged families. Thanks to summer programs including those offered by the BGCA, (Summer Brain Gain, Summer Brain Gain: Read!, and My.Future) children of all ages have a chance at a brighter future because now they can get ahead instead of falling behind.

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