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Stock in Summer

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Say you're an investor and your broker tells you:

"Look, this year, you're going to invest $11,558. Your investment will do well from September to May, but once the summer arrives, it's going to lose value. And come next September, you're stock is going to be worth $9,246 -- 20% less than when you bought it."

You'll probably decline the offer, right? Who knowingly and willingly loses 20% of their investment, year in, year out?

We all do.

We lose 20% of our public investment in education, every year, when we fail to take stock in summer and give kids opportunities to keep learning from one grade to the next.

Today is National Summer Learning Day. Today, nonprofits like BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) and Horizons and Higher Achievement and champions like the National Summer Learning Association pause to celebrate the importance of summer learning. Without structured summer learning experiences, children lose the equivalent of 20% of the literacy and math skills they learned during the school year. When the mind is not exercised and nourished and inspired, kids regress. This isn't theory. It's fact. And decades of research demonstrate that summer learning loss is a persistent problem.

It is great that the parents of 25% of our nation's school-age children take stock in summer -- they enroll kids in camps, enrichment activities, and other structured summer learning activities. Still, there's another 37 million students who lack access to high-quality opportunities in their community; 37 million students who will lose ground and have to relearn those skills when school starts again in the fall; 37 million missed opportunities to grow our investment.

I'm raising a daughter in Boston, where the average per-pupil expenditure of Boston Public Schools is $11,558. Essentially, if my daughter were to whittle away the summer hours doing nothing constructive, her school might as well throw 20% -- $2,312 dollars -- of that investment out the window. Without summer learning, schools are stuck in a perpetual pattern: five steps forward, one step backward.

I can promise that my daughter will never be idle during the summer, and neither should your children. Parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, elected officials -- it's time to demand sustained access to summer learning through our public schools. I'm proud to work with ambitious and visionary principals and superintendents who recognize that we'll never fully succeed in educating our children unless we deliver high-quality summer learning experiences for the children who need them most. Schools and districts in Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, New York City, San Jose, San Rafael, Spartanburg, Springfield, and Winston-Salem are leading the way in showing how schools and communities can collaborate to deliver great programs for kids.

A recent America After 3PM Special Report on Summer, sponsored by The Wallace Foundation, shows that 83% of parents want public funding for summer learning programs. It's time we demand that our public resources be deployed smartly and efficiently to meet this demand. It's not about finding new money -- the districts BELL is working with are showing how existing funding can be combined with community resources to deliver high-quality programming that's proven to boost kids' performance and self-confidence and health. It's about smart collaboration. It's about bringing the community into the classroom, and the classroom into the community.

Since we started with a little math for National Summer Learning Day, let's end with some. Let's take $10,000 to be the average per-pupil investment we make through public education each year. Those 37 million children I mentioned earlier? They're each losing about $2,000 of that investment in each year. That's $74 billion dollars out the window. It's time we take stock in summer and turn summer learning loss into summer learning gain.