For many students and families, summer is a time of rest, reflection and renewal. Long days are filled with video games, television and vacation, but could all of this relaxation actually be a bad thing? Research shows that kids who do not participate in structured and stimulating summer activities lose out academically. This learning loss frequently referred to as summer "brain drain" on average results in a loss of two months of math skills and up to a month in other academic areas. However, there is a lot that parents can do to prevent summer learning loss. Research suggests that programs focused on remedial, accelerated or enriched learning have a positive impact.
Here are some reasons why you may want to consider enrolling your child in an academically-focused summer program:
Summer school programs can help your child catch up academically.
If your child did poorly during the school year, is in danger of repeating a grade, or is struggling with reading or math skills, an academic summer program can help them to catch up and to maintain the skills that they currently have. Parents can explore programs that are offered through the public school system or seek out individual or small group tutoring for their student over the summer. In general, there are specific requirements to attend public school remedial summer school programs. However, some districts offer both remedial and enrichment programs.
Parents can use academic summer programs to accelerate their child's skills or help them get ahead academically.
Students who are at or above grade level can explore academic interests not offered during the regular school year, challenge themselves with more difficult course material, or learn new skills during the summer.
Here are some research-based best practices to look for when seeking a summer program for your child:
• Small summer school programs are more effective than large summer school programs with more than eight classrooms of students.
• Programs offering individualized assistance or instruction in groups of less than 20 students cause students to make the greatest gains.
• Summer school programs for students with learning disabilities have a positive impact.
• Suburban summer school programs tend to have a higher effectiveness than those carried out in large cities.
• Parent involvement in summer learning has a positive impact.
• Programs lasting between 60 and 120 hours are proven to be the most effective.
• Summer programs should focus on reading and math skills.
For more information see the summary of the meta-analysis by Cooper, Valentine, and Muhlenbruck: bit.ly/SummerSchoolAnalysis
Nina lives in Spotsylvania with her husband and daughter where she runs a K-12 tutoring service. She also writes a blog on FredParent called The Learning Zone.