Which school do you want to support?
Summer has a very different meaning for middle-and upper-income students than for low-income students. For example, while middle-income and wealthy children typically improve their reading performance over America’s long summer break, low income children experience a “summer learning loss” equivalent to at least a month of lost progress. Summer learning loss is cumulative; students who fall behind in the summer don't catch up.
Many suppose that the long summer break in the school calendar is somehow connected to America’s agricultural past. This is a myth.
Many suppose that the long summer break in the school calendar is somehow connected to America's agricultural past. This is a myth. The complicated history of summer vacation probably has more to do with the sweltering discomfort of a stuffy classroom than to the needs of the fields.
From time to time, education reform thinkers suggest shifting to a "year round" schedule in which breaks would be shorter and more evenly spaced through the school year. The idea was discussed seriously for a few years when California's schools were massively overcrowded. The NEA summarized the issue for its members.
There are many summer programs for children, but few are free, and not all are academically focused. In the economic downturn that began in 2008, school districts were given the option of doing away with summer school programs the state had previously funded. Many did so. One dedicated source of funding that remained for summer programs was through state and federal “extended learning” grants. Partly driven by matching grant challenges, some philanthropic and community organizations became interested in helping provide more summer learning opportunities and schools turned to them for help.
In California this all coincided with the development of some innovative new programs under the umbrella of the Summer Matters Campaign. These programs depend on an intentional synergy between the academic focus of traditional, district-led summer schools and “summer camp” programs that emphasize fun, engaging activities. Important aspects of this effort have been to encourage communities to try new approaches and on-going evaluation to see what works to engage kids, prevent summer learning loss, and perhaps even give kids a jump start on the coming school year.
For some teens, a "summer job" is literally a job, complete with pay. But teen summer jobs are actually much less common than you might think. According to the Pew Research Center, "the decline of summer jobs is, in fact, a specific instance of the decline in overall youth employment." All over the world, teen employment has been on a long, steady slide for decades. In America, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that teen employment rates have fallen by nearly half in the last 20 years.
Less than a third of teens are employed in the peak month of July. White teens are employed in the summer at dramatically higher rates than nonwhite teens.
Over half of summer jobs for teens are in food service or retail, mainly at minimum wage. There is no persuasive evidence to predict whether rising minimum wages will increase or decrease teen employment.
For most students, working in the summer isn't an option. Most are too young, and the summer "job" for many older students is to look after their younger siblings while their parents are at work. For students living in poverty, summer can make their conditions worse. Their parents may find it harder to care for them while finding ways to earn money and keep food on the table.
Of course, summers are not the only time that students might be learning (or not) out of school hours. The next lesson examines what we know about the use of after-school time.
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