All In: Meeting Student Needs During Summer
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” Charles Dickens, Writer
“Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” Henry James, Writer
“Nearly 21.5 million kids in the U.S. are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals, yet according to a 2016 report from the Food Research Action Center, only 1 in 6 of them receives that benefit over summer break.” the74million.org
For me, the last day of school is bittersweet, and it seems that many students and teachers agree; they are a bit sad to see their time together come to an end, yet at the same time, they are excited to see what summer will hold.
For many students, summer is filled with adventure and new learning. They will experience local excursions, world travel, time with family and friends, or days at the beach. Anticipating summer, these students are confident their days will be filled with enrichment and fun.
But, for some of our students, summer is more difficult. They may be home alone and not have enough food to eat. These students understand that their summer does not hold much promise.
A few days ago, I wrote about false dilemmas—the inclination to declare something as either/or. Opinions about summer break are good examples of this type of thinking—summer is often portrayed as either fun, exciting and enriching; or unpleasant and boring with educational loss. Most likely, however, it has elements of both. Summer can be both the best of times and the worst of times, depending on the circumstances.
I am concerned for our students who experience summer slide in learning: This is when a student experiences learning loss over the summer and starts a school year at a lower achievement level than he or she had at the beginning of summer break. This learning loss is often uneven, affecting various content areas differently. Fortunately, it can be ameliorated by quality summer programs. Professors David Quinn and Morgan Polikoff wrote an interesting article discussing who is more likely to experience summer slide and what we can do about it. MCPS offers a variety of summer enrichment programs to aid in this area, among them ELO SAIL, ELO STEP and the Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL) programs.
I am also concerned that many students depend on school breakfasts and lunches for their daily nutrition. Unfortunately, these meals are not always available during the summer. But, there are programs under way that fill this gap for our most vulnerable children.
Lastly, some students face long hours at home alone during the summer while parents work. School and community programs can be essential in offering safe and enriching environments for these children.
For many MCPS students, the summer programs we and community partners provide are critical. We must continue to expand summer opportunities and ensure they meet the needs of our students.
The next time you hear someone declare that summer is a magical time for children or that summer vacation is a struggle for students, know that it is both. It depends on the circumstances. Also know that as a caring community, we must do what we can to meet the needs of all of our students—even when school is not in session.