In the summer, I think of my child’s brains as a pool float with a tiny leak. Her brain leaves school plump and firm with knowledge, and by the time school starts again it’s squishy and won’t support weight.
I have tried everything I can to stop this leak. We do flash cards. I ordered first grade workbooks, much to the disdain of my 6-year-old who has been tasked with completing them by the time school starts. She still reads before bed most nights.
Yet even with all of my efforts, I see some things have slipped out of her memory. Then I think of some of her classmates, whose parents don’t have the time or interest to help compensate for the “two steps forward, one step back” approach that is our education system.
School will start in just a few weeks and the teachers will spend the first three to four weeks reminding children of the basic skills they forgot over the summer. Then they’ll proceed with the curriculum for the year. To say that this seems counterproductive is an understatement.
The National Summer Learning Association has a large collection of research supporting my point
. According to information featured on their site, research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.
So, what can we do? If your kids haven’t started school yet, there’s nothing wrong with a good old fashioned cram session before the bell rings. They’ll be doing it anyway in college, so why not start young? This website has a lot of tips
on what you can do. I argue, however, that we can’t stop there.
I believe there should be greater community support in the summer time to compensate for this. My daughter’s school has a summer program open to everyone every Monday in their library.
I also believe year-round school is a viable answer. At least 19 school districts and several charter schools in North Carolina have adopted a year-round calendar. Students still get a summer break – six weeks in most cases – but they’re back to being productive in school before their education evaporates too much. Research from multiple sources, including this study
from Loyola University, indicates that in addition to a reduction of learning loss, teachers at year-round schools report greater job satisfaction because of increased breaks and the fact they don’t have to retrain students at the beginning of each year.
I challenge us as parents and as school systems to continue to devise solutions to “patch up” this leak. Summer vacation is a beloved tradition, but the learning loss in the summer doesn’t have to be.