We’ve all heard of the summer slide. But a new report by ExpandED Schools tells us that we should also be worried about the June slump.
That’s the decline in attendance that many schools see after standardized testing is completed in the spring.
“When you look at the number of days that you lose in May and June just from lower attendance, you could be losing as much as a week of school, and that’s a week of opportunities for really great learning,” said Saskia Traill, ExpandED Schools’ vice president of policy and research and one of the report’s writers.
ExpandED Schools’ new report, titled “Avoiding the Attendance Slum: Strategies to Maximize Learning Time in June,” looked at attendance data for 1,200 New York City schools that were categorized as either elementary or middle or elementary/middle and found that, across these schools, average attendance declined by 5.8 percent between April and June.
The numbers were even worse for 94 of those schools that were identified as struggling. Their average attendance rate dropped 10.7 percent during the same period.
To find out what was behind this big drop in attendance, researchers conducted interviews with school leaders and their community partners at eight schools in the ExpandED Schools network.
“There are lots of things that signal school is becoming more optional, so half days, taking things off bulletin boards, teachers, in some cases, telling parents that the testing is over and school is a little less critical at this point,” said Traill. “What we found in the schools that avoided the slump was that they reminded parents and students how important school was but then also made it really exciting and engaging, so they did spirit week, they had culminating events all the way at the end of the year showing that the school year really doesn’t end until that last day of school.”
ExpandED Schools also found that after-school programs play a key role in this. Having a program that stays in place until the very end of school sends a message that school isn’t over yet. But one that ends early can send the opposite message.
“A lot of funding streams end an after-school program before the end of the school year, and that’s another signal that school is mostly over and these last two weeks are not a full part of the school year,” said Traill.
The report also suggested that having things like inclusive field trips and activities outside toward the end of the year helped with attendance as school started to wind down. In addition, the study recommended that schools offer accelerated learning opportunities during this time to engage students.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.