It’s summer, and educational inequities are widening

Hot topic: Closing the educational gap between the haves and have-nots is espcially important in the summer, according to Harry Aurora.
By HARRY AURORA //

Everyone loves summer vacation. But it’s vital that school districts and parents acknowledge the consequences of taking an extended period of time away from learning.

Multiple studies have supported that a “summer slide” truly exists. Over the course of a typical summer, the average student loses more than two months of math and reading skills and one month of overall learning – and it can take up to two months for the average student to get back on track once summer vacation is over.

I previously suggested several creative programs public school districts could implement to prevent the summer slide and this loss of basic skills, including reading-intervention programs, summer homework and a full-year school schedule. But an issue that needs to be addressed first is the lack of equity between affluent schools that are able to implement summer-enrichment programs and schools in lower socioeconomic communities that don’t have the resources needed to maintain a rich academic experience all year long.

Inequity in our nation’s public schools plays a large role in the academic divide between the haves and have-nots. One study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, which examined long-term educational consequences of summer-learning differences based on family socioeconomic levels, found that the academic achievement gap traces to “differential summer learning over the elementary school years.”

Bottom line: Students from financially secure families often retain more over the summer months than their peers from less-fortunate families, creating a gap that widens over time. By ninth grade, accumulated summer-reading losses account for two-thirds of the reading-achievement gap between low- and middle-income children.

Harry Aurora: Stop gap.

This gap is due in large part to the fact that rural and less-affluent families don’t often have access to the resources that keep summertime students engaged in enriching programming. A 2011 survey found that just 7 percent of children from poor families nationwide attend summer camp, compared to nearly 40 percent of affluent children, which is likely due to the typically significant expense of summer-camp programs.

The losses aren’t limited to learning; schools also provide childcare and nutritional programs for children, which could be cost-prohibitive or unavailable in rural or lower socioeconomic communities during the summer months. Without these and the other benefits of structured, consistent adult guidance, lower-income students are both physically and mentally unequipped to battle the summer slide.

Summer online tutoring programs can provide support. These programs can enable schools to provide students with the summertime structure needed to accomplish goals and navigate academic milestones set by classroom teachers, so that students arrive in September ready to take on the new school year.

Furthermore, online tutoring programs often take place in the student’s own home, making it much easier for students in rural or socioeconomically depressed areas to access educational programs. iTutor’s online instructional program, for instance, provides remote access to state-certified teachers – access that might not otherwise be available or affordable, ideal for strengthening summertime connections between schools and students.

All students, regardless of economic situation, deserve to start the school year on equal footing with their peers. The summer slide does not need to be inevitable – by engaging with new programs and staying vigilant, parents and educators can ensure that students learn all year long.

Harry Aurora is the founder and CEO of Jericho-based digital-education innovator iTutor.