The so-called summer slide is a pretty straightforward concept. During the long summer months, kids backslide on the academic gains they’ve made during the school year.
Researchers generally agree summer sets kids’ learning back about two months. Losses are more pronounced for kids from low-income families, probably because those kids tend to have less access to books or their parents don’t send them to summer camps.
We also know there are things school districts can do to effectively combat the trend. When I looked at this issue a couple months back, I mentioned one such program in San Diego Unified:
That could look like the five-week program at Chollas-Mead Elementary, in Chollas View, where students are in a classroom part of the day, then get outside for hands-on science lessons. They play in the dirt! There’s also a physical fitness component. It’s turned out some good results, too. Parents whose kids have participated, love it. Almost all of them said their kids were more motivated to read at the end of summer.
There’s more to that program than playing in the dirt, of course. Dirt-digging is part of an outdoor science lab, where kids make connections to plants and animals they’re reading about in class. Naturalists from Groundwork San Diego deliver lessons with help from students from UC San Diego.
More than 80 percent of the kids who attend this program make gains in reading by the end of summer. Not bad at all, considering all of its students come from low-income families and about three-quarters are still learning English.
Eighty percent is a nice number. But to understand what’s working you need to step inside a classroom. These second- and third-graders won’t spend their five weeks in the program coloring in books or cutting paper into dumb little shapes. This isn’t babysitting.
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PrimeTime (the afterschool program) offers free half-day summer camp for one month at many elementary and middle schools. These programs are also tuned into academic skills as well. The middle school program my son attended this summer included Spanish, STEM and language arts instruction. So it's not all or nothing, there are other available programs through SDUSD.
That said, the half day schedule is rough for working parents, and I know many parents believe in letting kids be kids over the summer, learning other life skills, like making your own fun when you're bored.
A while back, when Nathan Fletcher was running for mayor, he dared to talk education. SDEA, the SD teachers union of which I am a member, was horrified that a potential City leader would dare to attempt to involve himself in education. Nathan had always been supportive of education as an Assemblyman so it was a natural thing for him to do. Given the Education Establishment's attitude toward Nathan, would it be surprising if the current City administration were to wonder where all this" City should help fund education" talk was coming from??
Here's a new concept. There is no such thing as "summer slide". Just as our lovely computers need time to "download", children need to allow their 'computers" to download. It really doesn't matter whether the child is watching "I love Lucy" all summer or learning soccer or learning how to swim or just playing outside. Adults, as well as children need time to 'chill", to make sense of what their neurons have acquired. Oh, "they will lose their momentum from the spring", baloney. The mind does not take a walk. It is always "on". Educators have concluded that summer is the ultimate wasteland and must be bridged. No. Our society does little to allow for 'downtime". The Spanish are beginning to adopt our ways....terrible. Their tradition has been to shut down operations by 1p.m. and reopen after about 5p.m. Our go-go-go style is really hurting us. Recharging means we come back from a nap, or whatever, with greater energy, enthusiasm. Nothing has been lost. Children are downloading ALL THE TIME. They do not stop the last day of school. Our society dictates that we maximize, maximize, maximize. And, in all reality we end up with less, less, and less. All the exigencies still exist, but with a calmer view, better results. We need to treat ourselves, our children with a huge amount of stress reduction. We'll all be better off, healthier, and perhaps richer in many ways.
Can I make a suggestion to the schools who got short-changed by the city budget? What if instead of teaching these kids with fully paid teachers, we give the teachers their summer off as usual. Instead we'll simply pay for a crew of administrative staff to coordinate the logistics and...here's the crazy part...bring in high school and college volunteers? They need the volunteering experience on their resumes and the kids need someone to teach them letters and grammar. I think high school volunteers can handle that. Sure, there won't be professional teaching methodology, but it's much much better than nothing. Plus, having some role models to look up to will help the young kids too. Would the teachers union accept this proposal? Would we be able to cobble together $1M instead of $15M for support staff salaries for 30 schools?
Schools: We need $7.5M to teach kids.
Chargers: We need $600M for football
Mayor: Okidoki, and we'll spend a few more to do all the studies ahead of time and sell some land and pay for a special election.
It's all about choices... The district got more than enough LCFF money from the state for fiscal year 2016-17 to expand the summer school program to twice as many schools as Richard Barrera would like to see, but the district spent the funds on employee compensation. That choice has set the district up for not only a $34.6 million deficit in 2015-16 but a $94.7 million deficit in 2016-17 and a $119 million deficit in 2017-18 (see page 16 at www.boarddocs.com/ca/sandi/Board.nsf/files/9XMTAW76737E/$file/2015-16%20Budget%20Adoption%20Presentation%2C%206-23-15.pdf). With future deficits that large, it's sadly unrealistic to think that the district will be able to expand the Chollas-Mead summer program anytime in the foreseeable future.
Summer school is a much needed program. Hats-off to all those schools that provide this opportunity for their communities. The O'Farrell Charter School has provided both summer school and bus passes for students for he past fifteen years. Keep up the great work