Summer Learning Recognized Today

By Nora Fleming — June 21, 2012 2 min read
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National Summer Learning Day events are taking place around the country today in recognition of the impact summertime has on children’s education.

This year, the Walmart Foundation is the official sponsor.

As I wrote last week, Walmart has been actively contributing and supporting summer learning; this year, it has donated $20 million in total to support summer initiatives that include enrichment programs, meals, and jobs, $4 million of which is going to five school districts for their summer programs.

A growing body of research has shown that the summer months away from school can have negative impacts on students, particularly low-income children who lack exposure to academically enriching experiences when they aren’t in school. One study showed all students typically fall behind in math over the summer, some, at least two months behind where they were when they left school in the spring. Low-income students are also likely to fall two to three months behind in reading.

As Rand Corp. research from last summer shows, however, high-quality summer programs can make a difference in mitigating these impacts, and more and more organizations, school districts, and even state and national leaders are showing increasing interest in promoting such initiatives. Many of these can be found celebrating their efforts today; you can check them out on the NSLA’s map here.

For one, students, educators, state senators, and state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson will be on the Capitol grounds in Sacramento, Calif. to lobby the legislature to do more to promote summer learning. The activities include a showcase on hands-on STEM education—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—and how it can be incorporated into summer learning.

According to summer learning association CEO Gary Huggins in the CNN “Schools of Thought” blog, “Here’s the real flaw in the equation. Our attitude toward summer tells young people that summer is for fun and not learning. Therefore, what we’re really telling them is that learning is the opposite of fun,” he said.

“What a sad message, and what an inaccurate conclusion. ... From birth, children are wired for learning. Their earliest experiences arise from play and curiosity, which should be key components of summer learning for all ages—and are an important part of the best summer learning programs in the country today.”

But the news today isn’t all positive. Also in honor of National Summer Learning Day, the Afterschool Alliance issued the results of a survey it submitted to out-of-school providers, finding that this summer, more than a fifth said they had to reduce the enrollment of their programs because of budget pressures, even though more than half said they expected increased enrollment and waiting lists.

The findings are part of a larger report called “Uncertain Times,” coming out in the fall, that will look at how recession-induced budget pressures have affected out-of- school programs.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Beyond School blog.