Distant Early Warning: Summer Loss Has Far-Reaching Consequences

A recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation , EARLY WARNING! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters , points to some alarming findings within our education system.  Specifically, the report reveals that millions of students reach the fourth grade without having achieved reading proficiency.  Though this lack of proficiency is especially pronounced among low-income students, the effects are clearly felt across multiple socio-economic levels.  As the report states:

Of the fourth-graders who took the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading test in 2009, 83% of children from low-income families – and 85% of low-income students who attend high-poverty schools – failed to reach the proficient level in reading.  Reading proficiently by the end of third grade is a crucial marker in a child’s educational development.  Failure to read proficiently is linked to higher rates of school droput, which suppresses individual earning potential as well as the nation’s competitiveness and general productivity.

And even more distressing:

If the current trends hold true, 6.6. million low-income children in the birth to age 8 group are at increased risk of failing to graduate from high school on time because they won’t be able to meet NAEP’s proficient reading level by the end of third grade.

The report goes on to offer four recommendations to counter this trend, but one recommendation, in particular, stands out:

Find, develop, and deploy practical and scalable solutions to two of the most significant contributors to the under-achievement of children from low-income families – chronic absence from school and summer learning loss (emphasis added)…

The work of the National Summer Learning Association, and others, suggests that the solution to summer learning loss may lie not only in expanding access to language-rich summer learning opportunities, but also in more innovative and widespread deployment of technology.  We may need to recruit schools, libraries, and community-based programs to help more children and their families combat summer learning loss.

We couldn’t agree more.  We’ve written recently of the good work of the National Summer Learning Association .  We’ve also written extensively on our own efforts to combat summer learning loss through the use of utilities, like Lexile Find a Book .  Find a Book allows parents, students, and educators to develop customized reading lists based on both the reader’s Lexile measure and area of interest.  Research has shown both the importance of self-selected literature and the importance of matching readers to books at an appropriate readability level.  Find a Book is an attempt to capitalize on both lines of research and mitigate the tragic effects of summer loss and to reduce the achievement gap across the U.S.

If you haven’t yet seen it, we urge you to check it out.

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