Closing the Achievement Gap: Extending the School Year

Summer vacation – kids’ carefree days spent out of the classroom, sleeping late, enjoying friends and family vacations, right?  A tradition that provides ‘outside the box’ opportunities for learning, right?  Not so, according to this week’s Time magazine’s story – The Case Against Summer Vacation.  David Von Drehle argues that American students are competing in a global economy in which students around the world are spending, on average, four weeks longer per year in school.  Von Drehle contends that summer vacation may be a luxury we can no longer afford.  Most troubling is the negative toll summer vacation takes on student achievement.  The devastating effects of summer learning loss, or summer slide, disproportionately impacts low-income students.  High-income students often maintain their learning pace during the summer, whereas lower-income students typically stagnate or lose academic ground.  The problem compounds over time; by the end of fifth grade students from disadvantaged backgrounds have average reading comprehension levels almost two years behind their more affluent peers.  Here’s Von Drehle:

And what starts as a hiccup in a 6-year-old’s education can be a crisis by the time that child reaches high school.  A major study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University concluded that while students made similar progress during the school year, regardless of economic status, the better-off kids held steady or continued to advance during the summer-while disadvantaged students fell back.  By the end of grammar school, low-income students had fallen nearly three grade levels behind.  By ninth grade, roughly two-thirds of the learning gap separating income groups could be blamed on summer learning loss.

We’ve written extensively on the effects of summer learning loss and the research that shows that reading targeted over the summer mitigates the effects of summer learning loss.  In fact, our own Lexile ‘Find a Book‘ site was developed around the idea of keeping students reading targeted text during their own Lexile reading level and their area of interest.

That’s why it’s so encouraging to see the issues of learning loss and increased instructional time finally get the national attention they deserve.

For more on how the achievement gap between income groups can be attributed to the effects of summer slide, be sure to check out this video, Two Steps Forward.

MetaMetrics is an educational measurement organization. Our renowned psychometric team develops scientific measures of student achievement that link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning.