Summer Learning Important, Yet Comes With Cost in Spokane

By Paige Browning

It's officially summer in Spokane for kids, but the state's education community hopres they'll still exercize their noggins. More than half of the achievement gap between lower and higher income youth can be attributed to involvement in summer opportunities. That's according to a 2011 report by the organization School's Out Washington. The group's chief program and policy officer, Janet Schmidt, says the fact that lower income kids often don't get summer learning opportunities compounds with another trend. 

"Many studies show that between one to three months per year, that students can actually lose what they've learned during the school year," Schmidt says. 

Schmidt says this loss is prevented when kids read, write or otherwise engage their minds. But according to 2009 research by D.C.-based After School Alliance, only 21% of Washington kids participate in a summer learning program, while almost 50% of parents would like to enroll them in one. 

Spokane Public Schools' director of teaching and learning services Lorna Spear says summer school is offered on a school-by-school basis, but that's geared toward kids who need additional help. The district also promotes career and technical education programs, like STEM at Glover Middle School and Biomedical-Robotics-Production and Computer Science. But these come with a cost for parents. 

Spear says additional state funding would help them to provide more summer programs. For now, individual teachers notice when the kids experience summer learning loss. 

"But we also know that children have a great resiliency and a capacity oto learn," Spear says, "and if in the fall we engage them immediately in classroom activities... they can be successful."

In neighboring Idaho, a new report by Idaho Kids Count shows last spring 82% of kindergarteners had grade-level reading skills. When they returned in the fall, only 64% were at grade level. Similar numbers are not available in Washington. 

June 21 is nationwide Summer Learning Day. To plan a Summer Learning Day event, go to: http://www.summerlearning.org/?page=summer_learning_day

Copyright 2013 Spokane Public Radio.

Video on summer learning loss: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahhj3wxxkdM
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