First Mom Michelle Obama told students last month that summer shouldn’t be devoid of learning.
“If you’ve got big dreams and I know you all do, if you want to go to college, want to get a good job, want to make the most of your potential—then summer can’t just be a vacation. This is really a time to try and get ahead,” she said at a U.S. Department of Education gathering in June.
As research consistently shows, students regress academically over summer; remembering how to factor polynomials after three months of not doing it is not equivalent to getting back on a bike for the first time in years—when you don’t use the information you learn, you lose it. (I used to be fluent in Spanish, but now you should only bring me to Mexico if you need someone to ask where the library is.)
Summer learning loss, or informally, summer slide, has led many to advocate against summer vacation as we know it altogether. As Cristina Duncan Evans writes in a recent op-ed for Education Week Teacher:
Why do we remain in love with a 10-week hiatus from instruction? Is it too big of a logistical nightmare to shorten the summer break? Are the travel and summer camp lobbies (yes, there is a summer camp lobby) too powerful to be messed with?
But, to be fair, a lot of children derive benefit from summer camp, which can really build those social-emotional skills everyone is into these days. And it’s not like there aren’t tons of other businesses likely to want summer to stick around for as long as possible.
Let’s say traditional summer vacation isn’t going anywhere. How do you improve learning opportunities for students? How can teachers and administrators find good summer learning for themselves, too?
To get your perspective on these issues, tonight (Wed. July 16) at 8 p.m. ET, I’ll be moderating a Twitter chat for @educationweek and @EdWeekTeacher exploring summer learning for both students and educators. We’ll discuss the questions above, as well as a few others about getting the most out of June, July, and August. Follow one of those Twitter accounts, or follow me, or follow the hashtag #ewedchat.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.