This shouldn't come as a surprise, but after three months off in the summer most kids return in September at a lower learning level than when they departed: A whole month behind, according to Catherine Augustine a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation who has studied summer learning loss. Apparently a majority of children come back behind in math, whereas fewer are left behind in reading. This step backward is most obvious with children in low income neighborhoods where they might have less access to libraries and books in the home.
Over the years educators have promoted various changes in the educational system they thought might go a long way toward cutting back this deficit. School year-round was one idea; a marginally longer school year was another. The year-round idea apparently wasn’t anywhere near as effective as its proponents had hoped: studies still showed a deficit of one month or so at the beginning of the next year. It didn’t make much sense fiscally, and it surely ruined a lot of family summer vacations. Extending the school year made better financial sense but didn’t work all that well in some countries that had tried it, and Canadian schools showed better than the U.S. on the tests while only holding the kids in for three more days during the year.
So let’s not take away the kids’ summer just yet. If Canada can show good results with only a few extra days a year, maybe there is another answer. Summer school? That’s a step in the right direction, but don’t call it something kids will instinctively avoid. Instead, how about calling it “summer camp?”
That’s what a Harvard researcher suggests, particularly for children in poverty who have limited access to libraries. His research showed that kids that read only five books in a summer didn’t fall behind in reading. Catherine Augustine, the Rand researcher, agrees but thinks that summer camps should continue to provide kids with the usual fun activities like horseback riding and swimming while including the academic programs. We here at RobotsLAB agree with them both! And the robots in our award-winning math teaching aid the RobotsLAB Box can provide kids with an experience that is both fun and educational.