Thursday, July 29, 2010

Quincy, MA 0 July 29, 2010 – The Nellie Mae Education Foundation’s report, The Learning Season: The Untapped Power of Summer to Advance Student Achievement reveals that children experience learning loss over the summer months, and these losses are much greater for children from low-income families than they are for other children.

“As this report clearly shows, we need to re-evaluate when, where, how, and with whom we engage our children in learning,” said Nellie Mae Education Foundation President & CEO Nicholas C. Donohue. “Summer learning, and especially the loss in learning that can occur if children are not involved in quality summer activities, is a much more important part of education than most people think. Of course there are other areas of focus that are vital to student achievement, but this research certainly makes the point that we need to re-think how we are educating our kids.”

Among The Learning Season’s findings:
  • The test-score gap between children from low-income and middle-income families is attributable in large part to summer learning loss. Children are actually losing some of their previous learning over the inactive, summer months.
  • Schooling, a universal and accessible institution, of course affects student learning. However, school alone cannot compensate for societal inequities, especially during the weeks and months when they are closed.
  • There is growing evidence that well-designed, intentional summer programs can minimize summer learning loss; they can also go a long way toward developing a young person’s greater resiliency, leading to long-term increases in school attainment and achievement
  • In elementary school, poor children are learning overall at the same rate as middle- income children, at least in the basic skills for which we have test results. There may be even greater gaps in learning during the school year in such untested but important areas as initiative, analysis, and problem-solving.
  • Some of the differences in student learning often referred to as the “achievement gap” can be directly linked to an “opportunity gap” in summer enrichment opportunities, as only children from families with financial resources receive the additional learning of camp and other activities during the summer months.
  • All children lose some skills over the summer, especially in math. In literacy, low- income children lose skills and knowledge during the summer months while middle income children continue to learn (or stay even).
  • The kinds of summer programs attended by many middle-income kids demonstrably help their literacy skills, along with “21st Century Skills” such as teamwork and problem-solving that business leaders say are so important to career success.
“Clearly, the role of the summer months in helping young people learn and develop in significant ways has been vastly underestimated,” said report author Dr. Beth M. Miller, Director of Research and Evaluation for the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. “We can no longer ignore the fact that the long summer vacation period represents critical hours for learning that must be fully utilized—for those children who are “beating the odds” during the school year and for those who are not—if we are going to meet our educational imperatives in a global economy.”

The report suggests some possible solutions for summer learning loss, including:
  • Communities, with public support, must take responsibility for providing opportunities for educational, enriching experiences for all children during the summer months.
  • These experiences should include a wide variety of enrichments that build brain development, including activities that promote relationship-building; the acquisition of new knowledge, skills and competences; identity development; and a sense of belonging.
  • There is some evidence that summer reading interventions can reduce loss of literacy skills over the summer.
  • Lengthening the school year is another avenue to explore. It is clear that the curricula must not be narrowly focused solely on building basic, currently tested skills, but rather reflect the much broader creative, cognitive, social, emotional and physical needs of children.
Click here to see a presentation by Dr. Miller on the importance of learning that takes place outside of the traditional class room and school day/year.
Beth M. Miller, Ph.D., joined the staff of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation in September 2008. Dr. Miller was previously the President of Miller-Midzik Research Associates (MMRA), and a Senior Research Advisor at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST), Center for Research on Women, Wellesley College. A renowned expert on out-of-school time, her previously-authored research includes Critical Hours: Afterschool Programs and Educational Success, also commissioned by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. Dr. Miller has conducted many influential evaluations, research projects and policy analyses. Her work has focused on bridging the worlds of research, policy and practice in education and out-of-school time. Dr. Miller presents frequently at conferences and meetings and has been quoted in local, national and international media. She holds a B.A. from Hampshire College and a Ph.D. in Social Policy from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation is the largest charitable organization in New England that focuses exclusively on education. The Foundation supports the promotion and integration of student-centered approaches to learning at the middle and high school levels across New England. To elevate student-centered approaches, the Foundation utilizes a three-part strategy that focuses on: developing and enhancing models of practice; reshaping education policies; and increasing public understanding and demand for high quality educational experiences. The Foundation’s new initiative areas are: District Level Systems Change; State Level Systems Change; Research and Development; and Public Understanding. Since 1998, the Foundation has distributed over $123 million in grants.