Summer Learning: Why Aren’t we Outraged About the Summer Slide?

It’s Independence Day weekend, and it’s quite beautiful outside. I’m sitting on the Rockaway Beach boardwalk, and I see families playing in the sand, friends riding bikes and couples going for walks. This weekend, for a lot of working adults, comes as a nice and relaxing break. While I have a fun weekend scheduled, I’ll be spending Monday, July 4th, studying for the GRE. Monday night will be spent getting ready for the work week, where I’ll be working on various projects that will require me to both work independently and with colleagues. I’ll have to work through a to-do list and manage and complete unexpected projects. At any given point, I’ll be doing a combination of any of the following:

  • reading
  • writing
  • editing or
  • thinking of and suggesting solutions

 Effective employees across the world will be using similar skills, inadditon to a few others. Many young students, however, will have a two month long summer break where they won’t engage in various educational and social activites that will excercise their brains.
We know that students, especially low-income students (particularly those living in suburban or rural areas), forget what they learned the previous year. 

…how can a system that claims to educate kids claim that students are learning when we don’t try to create an environment in which learning is continuous?

I don’t mean that summer should be an extension of the school year, where you have children sitting in a classroom most of the day. The summer season is a great time for both teachers and students to enjoy the outdoors. Students should be taking class trips to museums and reading books outside. They should be engaging in discussions on current events, where they first read about an event and discuss their opinion–  whatever that may be– with a group of peers at a picnic.

Sadly, we’ve conditioned our students and families to believe that education is to be paused, for the most part, during the summer vacation. For a lot of low-income families, this is more of a default, mostly because lack of funds and vision of how to incorporate educational aspects in everyday life.

Who’s Responsible?

Should school districts continue to provide students with an enriching summer educational experience? Afterall, it’s the teachers who  have to work that much harder in the Fall to reteach content already taught the previous year

Should the parents, financially disadvantage as they may be, find a way to provide their own children with a vibrant and varied experince that will keep their young minds active and academically and socially up to speed?

Or, should some other third party, such as a children or educational non-profit organization or youth center take on this challenge?

It’s expensive to keep a school open during the school year. It’s even more so during the summer months, because the cost to maintain a minimum level of saftey for a small number of students is far too high. Youth centers, and especially parents, are available year-long (presumably). One would think that this would route would make more sense. While I think it does, non-profit organizaions and low-income parents have the same issues schools have: lack of money.

So who should step in and prevent the summer slide? I think the best answer would be a combinantion of all three sources, with parents leading the pact.

The Funding Issue 

So, of course, the next big question is how does this get funded? 

We know that this is an issue that doesn’t just impact student’s in a particular city of state. We know that millions of students in communities across the country come back to school less knowledgable and focused than before  they left school for the summer break. But as a country, we choose to ignore this problem. We continue to unfairly evaluate teachers based on students’ test scores, which attempts to gage how much a student has learned from content that ws covered rgar school year. We don’t take into consideration the time teachers spend at the begining of the year trying to catch students up to speed. 

Even more troubling is that the summer slide points to something that is even more troubling. It shows that students can pass test at the end of the year but not make any real use for them, so as along as students can continue passing a few exams, they cen get away with not retaining realinformation. The system as a whole seems to be ineffective and we need government support behind a real solution, if we want our students to truly learn.

I’m always troubled by the proverb “It takes a s village to raise a child.” Everyone seems to agree with this, but we won’t admit that we’re doing teachers and students a cruel injustice when we leave them alone for the summer with to real guidance as to how they can become multifacted learners, outside of the classroom environment.

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