In his September column in Phi Delta Kappan, Gerald Bracey reports on the available research revealing that economically disadvantaged students lose academic ground over the summer. These studies show that while middle-class and poor students make similar achievement gains during the school year, the gap in achievement between the two groups grows because of the relative loss in reading skills of poorer students that occurs during the summer.
In one study, 80 percent of the achievement difference between economically advantaged and poor schools was due to gain or loss in achievement in reading that occurred during the summers between second and sixth grades. This kind of data can only be collected in districts that test twice yearly — at the beginning and end of the school year. Achievement scores can then be compared from fall to spring and spring to fall.
Even when schools do a good job of educating economically disadvantaged students, these children fall further and further behind because they lose academic ground over the summer. A meta-analysis of 13 studies revealed that each summer equals a three-month loss for these students. During the elementary years, this adds up to a one-and-one-half year difference in achievement between poor and advantaged students. Research also reveals that it is the volume of summer reading that predicts summer loss or gain.
Bracey contends that policy makers have been unwilling to confront the reality of summer loss. Educators can share this research with parents and advocate for summer reading programs in schools, public libraries and community centers.
Phi Delta Kappan, Volume 84, Number 1, September 2002, p. 12.
Published in ERN October 2002 Volume 15 Number 7