In the past few weeks, we’ve written a number of posts on the importance of increasing student instructional time. We’re not alone in recognizing the urgency of keeping the educational spigot on during the summer months. Here’s yet another voice – LZ Granderson – calling for a greater emphasis on the amount of time students spend learning. Granderson does a nice job rounding up the current thinking on the importance of year round learning and even references Harris Cooper’s work on summer loss. Cooper has argued that the cessation of learning during the summer months has a devastating long-term impact on a student’s overall academic future. Our own Malbert Smith has made similar arguments and offered a number of ways to curb the effects of the academic loss that occurs each summer.
Granderson argues that the traditional school calendar was built around cultural and economic needs that may no longer be applicable:
…the reason for summer vacations in the first place was that little Johnny was needed in the fields to help the family during growing season. Today more people live in cities than they do in rural areas, and that farming structure has been obsolete for some time. If our kids aren’t working on the farm all summer long, what are they doing?
Granderson has a point. At 180 days, the U.S. has one of the shortest school years of the PISA countries. By way of comparison, Finland has just a few more at 190 days, while South Korean students are in school 40 days longer than their American counterparts!
In the meantime – until efforts to secure increased instructional time take hold as part of most education reform agendas – there are other resources to help keep students engaged over the summer. Tools like Lexile Find a Book allow students to select books on topics of their choice and at their targeted reading level. And because Find a Book is linked to public libraries, all students have a chance to access targeted reading material over the summer. Tools like Math at Home allow students to access free math resources to supplement and reinforce their math lessons from the previous year. The amount of math learning loss that occurs each summer (students rarely do any math instruction over the summer) is pronounced and found across the socio-economic spectrum. Math at Home aims to curb the impact of that loss by matching students to targeted math resources that reinforce the lessons of the previous school year.
These tools are free and easy to use. Be sure to take a look.