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California stems summer learning loss among disadvantaged students with new educational campaign

LatinaLista — Summer break is only a few weeks away for most school children in the U.S. and while it’s the time of year every kid looks forward to, summer always brings mixed feelings from adults. For example, though parents enjoy the break from a rigid schedule, they worry about keeping their kids occupied with enough to do to keep from getting bored. Educators worry how much their students will forget by the time they return to school in August. The “forgetting” is called summer learning loss.

For children from disadvantaged families, summer learning loss is a real threat to their academic progress. Research has shown low-income children to be nearly three grade equivalents behind their more affluent peers in reading by the end of the fifth grade as a result of summer learning loss.

There are other consequences:

Summer learning loss, which is cumulative over time, contributes directly to a widening of the achievement gap between low-income and middle-income students, and a lack of summer learning opportunities also contributes to increased student drop-out rates.

Unequal summer learning opportunities during elementary school years are responsible for about two-thirds of the ninth-grade achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.

Children from low-income households who lack access to summer learning programs also disproportionately gain weight in summer because they lack access to the recreational programs and meal programs available during the school year and spend more time watching TV and being sedentary, thus increasing their risk of childhood obesity.

Summer learning loss among low-income youth is especially acute and widespread, with an inordinate number of low-income students lacking access to meaningful summertime learning opportunities and parents consistently citing summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do.

Realizing the academic potential lost during the summer months among low-income children has motivated one state to do something about it. California has created a state-wide campaign dubbed Summer Matters.

A website, Facebook page, Twitter and designated YouTube channel work together promoting the campaign by supplying tips to parents on how to prevent summer learning loss, print-out checklists of summertime activities to keep kids learning, what to look for in a summer program.

Though it is geared towards California parents, the campaign’s tips and print-out checklists are applicable to students no matter where they live.

A child’s need for meaningful learning and enrichment experiences does not end in June when the school doors close for summer vacation. These needs continue into and through the summer months, but whether or not these needs are being met may boil down to a child’s neighborhood or family income level.

Without ongoing summer opportunities to reinforce and learn skills, children—especially children in low-income communities—fall behind dramatically in many areas of academic achievement. Additionally, the health of many low-income children is put at risk during the summer because they lose access to healthy school meals and organized physical activity.

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