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S.O.S.S. - Save Our Summer Schools




by Emilie Openchowski, NEA Today intern

Thursday, July 9, 2009 -- Today is National Summer Learning Day, when summer school programs are celebrated for preventing learning loss and helping to close the achievement gaps. Unfortunately, more and more of these programs aren’t reopening their doors this year because they lack sufficient funding.

"We’re seeing a disturbing trend of districts making huge cuts to summer school; they’re just devastating these programs,” Ron Fairchild, executive director of the National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University, told the New York Times. "It’s having a disproportionate impact on low-income families.”

It's widely accepted that summer school programs can help bridge the achievement gap between low-income and more affluent kids. Low-income students are especially prone to “summer loss” -- the failure to retain certain knowledge, especially in math and reading, from the previous school year -- because they don't typically receive the same intellectual stimulation that more affluent kids get from camps, vacations, and other summer activities. That disparity is reduced, however, when underpriviledged students attend summer school.

Even though the economic stimulus bill is feeding more than $100 billion to public education, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan is encouraging schools to use some of this money to keep summer programs running, many districts are unable to do so. Some state government revenues have fallen so low that despite the stimulus money, public school budgets are still being cut.

That’s not to say summer programs have been cut everywhere. There are still some districts that have managed to preserve their seasonal education programs, but most have been trimmed down and altered to accommodate smaller budgets.

In areas that have had programs cut, the National Center for Summer Learning is working to create enriching summer experiences, especially for children in high-poverty communities.

To find out about National Summer Learning Day events, visit the National Center for Summer Learning's blog.

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