To the Editor:
As the executive director of the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University, I welcome the attention brought to the issue of summer break by your recent article “Much of Learning Gap Blamed on Summer” (July 18, 2007). Our center works closely with Karl L. Alexander, whose research is highlighted in the article, and we support his recommendation for expanded learning time during the summer months.
At the same time, it’s important to recognize that learning need not take place exclusively within school walls. Many capable organizations can jump in to help close the nation’s achievement gaps. In fact, many of the most successful summer programs offer a combination of engaging academic and enrichment activities that take place in camps, libraries, museums, and other community institutions across the country.
High-quality summer programs reinforce what is taught during the school year. Just as importantly, they equip and inspire kids to explore what the school year’s time crunch doesn’t always allow, such as new interests and hobbies, the arts, technology, and community service. These activities help stimulate a love of learning and develop the types of innovative and creative thinking skills that a new global economy demands.
Now is the time to include out-of-school-time learning as an essential component of education reform. Rather than detract from schooltime efforts, this reform would complement and strengthen school-year learning. As research by Mr. Alexander and others makes clear, closing the achievement gaps that plague our schools will not be possible until summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged youths become a policy priority.
Center for Summer Learning
Johns Hopkins University
A version of this article appeared in the August 15, 2007 edition of Education Week