My parents would have said, go out and play. But we’re living in an age when parents are more hands-on,
for many reasons: anxiety about getting into college and earning a break on the sky-high cost; unpredictable economic storms, insecure jobs, stagnant wages that create a slippery slide down and out of the comfortable middle class.
As a result, families are more concerned that these weeks of summer include some learning. For people with time and money, summer promises specialty camps, out-of-town vacations, lessons and trips to museums and concerts.
But summer learning loss – the idea that students lose ground academically when they don’t engage in educational activities during the break – is particularly acute for children in families with lesser means.
Sociologists at Johns Hopkins University demonstrated this by tracking 800 Baltimore students over two decades. They found that better-off kids retained more over summer break because they were involved in stimulating activities, even if they had very little to do with a textbook and a No. 2 pencil. In fact, by ninth grade, summer learning loss was responsible for two-thirds of the achievement gap between low-income students and their better-off peers.
In recognition of this finding, places from St. Louis to Teton County, Wyoming, have started affordable, educational summer programs for low-income families. More »