By Curtis Valentine
As the summer approaches and the 2012-2013 academic year comes to a close for millions of K-12 students, the debate over how to improve public education continues. Research dating back to the 1970s by New York University sociologist Barbara Heyns reflected that low-income students lose approximately 3 months of grade-level equivalency during summer breaks from school. Recent studies have only reinforced the notion of summer learning loss and highlight that middle-income students lose about one month of grade-level equivalency over the summer. And while school system governance, school choice and school closings have dominated recent discussions about school reform, the beginning of summer break is a perfect time to highlight the impact summer learning loss has on efforts to close achievement gaps.
As a child growing up in New Jersey, my family didn’t emphasize summer reading during school breaks. To many of my friends and family members, summer learning was confined to summer school and summer school was for “other kids.” To my friends, summer learning was solely for those who needed remediation. We never envisioned that summer enrichment programs were developed to help students maintain their current academic standing or build upon the knowledge gained from the previous school year. By the 6th grade, I was only reading on a 3rd grade level. Unbeknownst to my parents and I, while we dismissed the importance of continued summer study, we also failed to lay the necessary foundation in reading I would eventually need.