It's Still About Time
We have devoted a number of articles to the concept of TIME and learning. Both The Teacher Leader and I learned through practice that, of all the ways to improve student achievement—time, setting (class size), methods, curriculum--time may be the most critical. Schools often don’t or can’t control the curriculum. Class size has to be really small to make a difference, and, in tight budget times, is probably unrealistic. Improving teaching methods takes years and is a never-ending process. However, increasing learning time holds the greatest promise for immediate improvements in student performance
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins National Summer Learning Association believe that two-thirds of the achievement gap can be directly attributed to summer learning loss. While schools are being shut down, reconstituted, and principals and teachers fired for low student achievement, we continue to ignore the research because summer learning is not glamorous and it is not a “silver bullet.”
In “The Case Against Summer Vacation,” Time Magazine’s August 2 issue jumps on the bandwagon. Here are some highlights from the article:
- Part of the problem is one of perception. “We associate the school year with oppression and the summer months with liberty.”
- “American students are competing with children around the globe who may be spending four weeks longer in school each year, larking through summer is a luxury we can't afford.”
- “Deprived of healthy stimulation, millions of low-income kids lose a significant amount of what they learn during the school year. Call it "summer learning loss," as the academics do, or "the summer slide," but by any name summer is among the most pernicious — if least acknowledged — causes of achievement gaps in America's schools.”
- Children with access to high-quality experiences can exercise their minds and bodies at sleep-away camp, on family vacations, in museums and libraries and enrichment classes. Meanwhile, children without resources languish on street corners or in front of glowing screens. By the time the bell rings on a new school year, the poorer kids have fallen weeks, if not months, behind. And even well-off American students may be falling behind their peers around the world.”
- “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.”
- Across the country, there is a “growing movement to stop the summer slide by coordinating, expanding, and improving summer enrichment programs — especially for low-income children.”
Let me say this one more time, if you hold learning time constant, you are effectively ensuring that a significant portion of your students, mostly poor and disadvantaged, will fail. By failing to provide adequate learning time, you have built failure into your system.
Sumer learning must become a normal part of schooling, not “The Grinch That Stole Summer Vacation."
It’s About Time!