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Student Achievement

‘Does Vacation Have to Mean Vacuum?’

By Nora Fleming — July 21, 2011 1 min read

“Why does vacation have to mean vacuum?” Matthew Boulay, interim CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, asks today in an article featured in a series on summer slide on NBC News’ Education Nation site.

Boulay’s piece, which discusses how traditional summer “school” can expand to become enriching summer programming to combat summer learning loss, is part of a weeklong focus on Education Nation’s The Learning Curve blog. The Learning Curve has already featured a question-and-answer session with Karl Alexander, who produced some of the most recognized research on summer slide to date. Upcoming pieces include a profile of Horizons National, a summer enrichment program that serves thousands of children in branches around the country, and an article from Earl Phalen, the founder of Summer Advantage, an Indianapolis-based summer enrichment program.

Alexander discusses the highlights of his longitudinal research that tracked 800 Baltimore 1st graders in the 1980’s through their late 20’s. Alexander’s research found that not only did the summer months contribute substantially to the achievement gap between underprivileged and more privileged students, but it also grew substantially for students with each consecutive summer.

By the time students entered high school, Alexander found, the “summer slide” accounted for two-thirds of the achievement gap in reading, gaps that were influential in high school dropout rates, and general underperformance for students who lacked access to educationally enriching experiences in their time away from school. Unprivileged students actually “pretty well kept pace” during the school year, he concluded, it was the summer that was most detrimental.

Recent research supports Alexander’s findings, but also looks to see what kinds of summer programs are more effective in quelling access-to-learning issues over the summer months. A webinar on the recent research and issues on summer learning, profiled here earlier, is being held on August 8 by the Rand Corporation and Wallace Foundation.

Check out my story on summer programs, out last week.

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