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August 20, 2013

Can Summer School Close the Achievement Gap?

Watch Reinventing Summer School to stop kids' Learning Loss on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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For students, summer is a welcome break from the daily classroom grind. However, all that time spent away from the books can lead to a phenomenon known as “summer learning loss”, in which students forget concepts they learned during the school year. This can lead to them being unprepared when school resumes in the fall, and unable to catch up to classroom pace.

Summer learning loss also disproportionately affects lower income students, who may not have access to the same stimulating summer programs as their higher income peers. In order to address this disparity, school districts around the country have attempted to create public summer schools and programs to keep kids learning and engaged between June and September.

In Providence, Rhode Island, school officials realized that to keep kids interested in academics during the break, they would have to do more than offer traditional remediation summer classes. They instead decided to use their funds to give students a chance to use their science and math knowledge in fieldwork activities. Students then took the skills they learned in the field and applied them to complex classroom problems.

While standardized test scores in the district are still low, student engagement and grades in math and science have risen among those who participated in the summer program. For school officials, this is evidence enough that their summer programs are worth the effort.


Quote

“We could have remediation until the cows came home, and, one, substantial numbers of kids didn’t attend, and, two, it wasn’t effective,” – Susan Lusi, Providence Public School District.

Warm up questions
  1. What are the pros and cons about having year round school? Which do you think is better for learning?
  2. How helpful do you think the typical summer school program is for kids? Would you want to go?
  3. Experiential learning is a kind of educational instruction that is “hands on”. This means that the student take trips, conduct experiments, and do other activities, as opposed to sitting in a classroom and listen to the teacher lecture or fill out worksheets. Which do you think is better for learning and why? Which kind of classroom would you rather be in?
Discussion questions
  1. What is “summer learning loss” and which groups of students are most affected by it?
  2. How many months ahead academically are students enrolled in the “Summer Scholars Program” compared to students who have no summer enrichment? How or why you think this happens?
  3. How has the “Summer Scholars Program”’ partnership changed the relationship between students and local members within the community?
  4. Cite evidence from the video that Experiential learning is a better alternative to the regular lecture and worksheet classrooms. Now imagine weaknesses or possible problems that may arise from Experiential learning. Do its benefits outweigh its weaknesses? Explain.
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