Friday, April 29, 2011

Summertime and the Learnin' Ain't Easy!

Earlier in the week, we blogged about why it is so important for District high schoolers to have Summer School as a viable way to recover credits necessary for grade promotion and/or graduation. Having this option available to all students who need it is essential to stemming the District’s current drop-out crisis. If our government is serious about fixing the education system then divesting in Summer School is a curious way to go about it.

Equally important to re-funding opportunities for high school students is restoring funding for middle-school and elementary students – albeit for very different reasons. Not only is Summer School for younger students vital to ensuring that they form a path to graduation in the first place, it also helps build the bridge to post-secondary educational opportunities. Researchers at Johns Hopkins found in a study of 800 Baltimore students that roughly two-thirds of the high school freshmen who chose not to pursue a college preparatory curriculum did so because of the academic losses they sustained during the summer months.

The educational losses younger students sustain during the summer months can be severe and the situation is especially dire for low-income students. Statistically, economically disadvantaged students start school with lower achievement scores than their peers, but during the school year they progress at about the same rate as other students. However, this progress can be quickly negated during the summer months. While research shows that most students across the socio-economic spectrum lose approximately 2 months of grade-level equivalency in math over the summer months, low-income students also lose 2 months of reading equivalency while their middle-class peers tend to make slight gains (National Summer Learning Association). All children and youth are susceptible to “summer slide,” but for already low-performing students, the lack of Summer School options makes basic educational achievement nearly impossible.

Summer School provides structure and continued skill development to those students in need of academic recovery in addition to prevention of summer learning loss. In 2010, DCPS enrolled roughly 5,000 elementary and middle school students in Summer School. However, this summer, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in DC have a severely diminished number of slots with a maximum of 175 slots available. Elementary student slots are now capped at 3,600. This leaves over 1000 students without critical academic support and at an extreme risk of falling even further behind.

Limiting the number of summer slots for thousands of DCPS students is an unacceptable way of balancing the DCPS budget. Investing in a robust education system that accounts for the educational attainment of all children and youth is the only way that we can attain truly improved outcomes. To accomplish this, DC must keep the doors to education open during the summer months, not shut them in the faces of our cities' children and youth.

This is Part 2 of a series of blogs about the effects of the FY'11 Budget Cuts on children and youth in DC. Stay tuned over the next two weeks as we give you the rundown of how cuts have already started to erode progress made in the District in areas like positive youth development programming, education, health and juvenile justice.

If you are interested in guest blogging about a specific issue please contact Anne Abbott, DCAYA's Membership and Communications Coordinator at anne(at)

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