Why Is Summer Learning So Critical?
Summer learning has the potential to close two-thirds of the achievement gap, if not more. To be sure, schools have enough discretionary dollars to allocate resources over the summer to provide interventions for students who are not proficient and beyond. However, because schools are not measured on the percentage of students that receive intervention or summer support, most of them do not plan to offer additional support. This is a real missed opportunity because the summer is a time to help students reach proficiency, stem summer slide, and keep kids off the streets and away from trouble.
In New York City, less than 40% of children in grades 3 – 8 met the State standard for proficiency in Math and English Language Arts (ELA) at the end of the 2015 – 2016 school year. Even though more than 60% of New York City public school students did not meet the proficiency benchmark, based on summer spending, less than three percent were offered intervention over the summer to get up to speed. Students who are behind at the end of an academic year and who do not receive support over the summer are more likely than not to start the following school year just as far behind, if not further behind, the following school year.
Moreover, children in low-income communities who are not engaged academically lose knowledge. Research shows that unequal summer learning opportunities account for two-thirds of the 9th grade reading achievement gap between poor students and their affluent counterparts. Over the summer, students in low-income neighborhoods forget between 2.5 – 3.5 months of proficiency in Math and ELA. During the 2012 – 2013 school year, the percentage of public students who became eligible for free or reduced lunch (a common federal proxy for income status) officially became the majority of the public school system at 51%.
If school leaders and officials are going to have any chance at leveling the educational playing field, they are not going to be able to ignore summer. Several cities, namely NYC, D.C., Providence, and a couple of others have publicly acknowledged this. In the next couple of years, we anticipate that many more will follow suit.