Experts say teens are at risk of forgetting months of instruction -- particularly in math and science -- over the summer break, but some parents are worried that educational summer programs aimed at fighting the brain drain are only overloading students, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Studies conducted by the National Summer Learning Association suggest that this academic hiatus can amount to three months’ worth of learning loss in the aforementioned subjects — and the decline is even greater in low-income communities. Students regress in reading and spelling skills, widening the achievement gap between disadvantaged teens and their middle-class counterparts, according to the association, which is the nonprofit behind National Summer Learning Day on June 21.
The organization maintains that schools should expand their summer school programs and students should commit a portion of their vacation to brushing up on their academics. And districts across the country are responding to greater demand for summer brush-ups. The Detroit Summer Learning Connection just launched to promote summertime educational activities, and teachers in Georgia's Gwinnett County have opted to work for free over the summer to offer reading classes to students.
However, some parents and educators disagree, asserting that summer is a time for teens to recharge their batteries and relax with their families.
“Experiential learning is really where it’s at,” Daniel Rothner told U.S. News.
A former teacher and father of four, Rothner is the founder and director of Areyvut, a nonprofit that aids Jewish youth in developing social learning projects. He says that learning something in math, science or geography is different from actually living it — whether that’s through doing math at a baseball game, or at the park.
Besides providing out-of-classroom learning experiences, summer vacation also allows teens to realize the value of a work-life balance, according to Tiffany Della Vedova, the academic dean at Grandview Preparatory School in Florida.
“It’s so culturally ingrained in American society to keep pushing forward and working harder and working faster and longer, that we lose the efficiency that we're striving for,” she told U.S. News. “Kids need a break over the summer. If we don't teach them that you need to do that in life … then they'll be conditioned not to.”
Last summer it was reported that budget cuts in places such as New York, Washington, D.C., Houston and Detroit would limit the activities and programs available to urban youth during summer vacation. Swimming pools, recreation centers, summer camps and reading programs were eliminated, as were many short-term job openings that came with them.