In the next few days, many students will be leaving school, all excited about their accomplishments, looking forward to the next year or the next milestone in their educational journey. Yes, it’s great for kids to end the school year with a dream and thinking about a future that holds much hope. And as a community, we have a responsibility to help our children and youth to remain engaged in summer learning activities that will sustain, expand and grow that hope, keeping that dream alive.
For the last two years, I have used this editorial space, around the same time, to make the case for summer learning opportunities for our children and youth, especially our poorest children and youth. It should be no surprise that children and youth of the privileged have always thrived during the summer “vacation,” oftentimes, showing gains in reading and math achievement the next school year. Also, it is evident that many of our low-income students are being shortchanged each summer, causing them to be farther behind at the start of the new school year. Clearly, the summer learning opportunity gap impacts the achievement gap among our students, indicating, to me, that summer learning loss is real. And that is unacceptable.
With that said, I stand by my assertion that is is everyone’s business a shared responsibility — to keep our kids learning, safe and healthy during summer. Believing that everyone counts and that summer learning matters, It is time for an epic shift in how we treat summer and the lack of opportunities for most of our children and youth. To be sure, the educational leaders in our schools know what’s at stake. Yet, too few of our children and youth will be served by high-quality summer learning programs again this summer, while a great deal of research extols the value and benefit of summer learning, with the primary goal being to promote student success.
Additionally, the research suggests that children who are products of summer learning are more likely to graduate high school and attend college, with summer being a good time to learn about careers, as well. While stressing summer as a time to learn to an audience of young people, First Lady Michelle Obama remarked, “If you’ve got big dreams and I know you all do, if you want to go to college, want to get a good job, want to make the most of your potential — then summer can’t just be a vacation. This is really a time to try and get ahead.”
As a community, let’s end this school year with a dream, dream of making summer learning a priority for our children and youth. It must be the responsibility of all community stakeholders to create and help fund quality summer learning programs that will positively impact all our children and youth.
Over the course of time, with this dream becoming a reality, we will have started something that will continue for generations to come, helping our youth achieve their personal and professional best, by letting summer be a season for continued learning, which will help them maintain hope for a brighter future.
Summer learning can change lives.
Larry Sutton is a retired teacher from Clinton High School.