Battling summer brain drain
During the summer months when kids are not in school, student learning can deteriorate one to two month per year, according to studies by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institution which researches education and public policy. By the time a student enters ninth grade, he or she has lost at least 8 months of learning.
“It’s a cumulative effect … that’s devastating,” says Amy R. Smith, president of the National Association of School Psychologists.
Structured academic learning in the summer is essential to prevent what is commonly called the “summer slide.” While free time and vacations are important parts of summer, there needs to be some effective instruction. Spending the summer in day care centers or in strictly recreation-based camps won’t help prepare kids for the new school year, explains Smith.
The idea of having a quality program is really critical. Simply going somewhere is not the answer,” Smith says. “With the typical summer school, the model we’re used to, it’s typically used for remediation, to catch kids up with what they missed during the year or to prevent them from being retained a grade. That’s not the answer either.”
Luckily, summer school has evolved in Maryland public schools over the years, and many schools offer programs for different types of learners—from children struggling with school to students in gifted and talented programs, says William Reinhard, public relations representative for the Maryland Department of Education.
The type of programs offered depends on the school system, as well as funding for each school, Reinhard says. Calvert County Public Schools offer a fine arts summer program, and Anne Arundel Public Schools offers fee-based summer programs focusing on science, engineering and global languages, where instruction is also fun and interactive.
Parents should check with their children’s school to determine whether programs are available in the summer, and whether the programs fit the academic needs of their children.