Summer Learning Policy

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National research shows that roughly two-thirds of the ninth-grade achievement gap between lower and higher income youth can be attributed to unequal access to summer learning opportunities during the elementary school years (Alexander et al. 2007). While not in the classroom over the summer most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math computation skills over the summer months, and low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement (Cooper, 1996). Additionally, parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do (Duffett et al, 2004).

Policy Focus on Summer

We believe that all students can achieve given the right opportunity. We recognize that our state’s diverse student populations cannot be solely and equitably educated through the methods found in traditional schooling and have needs requiring innovative strategies, alternative pathways and expanded learning opportunities beyond the school door.

We are thrilled to highlight the summer learning report created by the House Education Committee’s Summer Learning Work Group, convened by Representative Smith Warner between the 2016 & 2017 legislative sessions. The Smart Summers Report explains the nature of summer learning, provides policy context for decision makers, and offers examples of how summer learning has made a difference for children in Oregon- and across the nation.

Drawing on the experiences of diverse stakeholders, this report offers recommendations for linking enrichment and skill-building opportunities to provide high-impact learning experiences for Oregon kids most in need of them. Together, these recommendations support broader improvements in the structure, design, and quality of educational offerings that Oregon leaders are working toward.

Oregon’s students of color, those from poverty, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities remain the most under-served by our public education system. In order to address the cumulative impact of our state’s summer learning loss, and the growing opportunity gap, our public education system and after-school and community-based organizations must come together to provide and sustain high quality expanded learning opportunities that support each student’s academic success, allow them to graduate with a high school diploma and prepare them for college and career success.

Focus on Summer – For many, the summer months are challenging and risky

  • Academic Loss: All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer. Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months.
  • Inequity: More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, while their middle-class peers make slight gains.
  • Health Risks: Children gain body mass index (BMI) nearly twice as fast during the summer as during the school year.
  • Parents & Families: Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do.

Therefore, to increase the return on investment of our education dollars and ensure all children, particularly low-income children, have access to high quality expanded learning opportunities during the summer we must:

  1. Increase public investments in programs and organizations that provide summer learning opportunities in targeted high-risk, low-income communities.
  2. Implement communication strategies to increase awareness and access to existing summer supports, including but not limited to the USDA Summer Food Service Program, public libraries’ statewide summer reading program and academic and enrichment programs.
  3. Intentionally incorporate the Oregon Education Investment Board Equity Lens in all actions, including but not limited to developing funding structures, requirements, and distributing funds.

Oregon Legislature Summer Learning Workgroup

We are thrilled to see interest in summer learning growing and want to thank the many Champions who continue to elevate the conversation and work towards a positive change. TMany thanks to House Education Chair Doherty for convening the work group, to  Representative Smith Warner for championing the creation efforts, and to Representative Hack for serving on the work group as we continue to look for strategies to support a more comprehensive support system for Summer Learning in Oregon!