State Senator Mark Hass (D-Raleigh Hills) is currently the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. After teacher Jennifer Singleton discussed summer learning loss and pros and cons of year-round education on the ChalkBloggers last week, Hass further explores the topic and the pending national TIME Act.
In the dog days of summer, it’s great to be a kid. Lazy, sunny days. Family Trips. Summer camps. Not a care in the world.
Actually, this is a myth threatening America’s future in the global economy.
The truth is, more than half of the students in Oregon public schools (50.1 percent) come from “economically disadvantaged” homes, according to the Oregon Department of Education. These students are not spending their days at OMSI Camp. And without the kind of enrichment activities enjoyed by wealthy families, the “summer slide” is deeper.
The “summer slide” is how educators describe summertime months when students forget some of what they learned the previous school year. Research not only confirms this, but reveals that its takes its biggest toll on low-income students.
When they report to school in the fall poor students are, on average, one month behind where they left off in the spring, according to a 2011 study by the RAND Corporation. Most disturbing, according to the research, is that summer learning loss is cumulative; over time, the difference between the summer learning rates of poor and rich students contributes substantially to the achievement gap.
Extended learning time—whether extra days in the summer, longer school days, or a few weeks added on the to beginning and ends of the school year—can be a powerful tool to reverse this dynamic and even reduce Oregon’s high school dropout rates.
Oregon public schools have one of the shortest school years in the country at 172 days. Other states are somewhere between 170 and 182 days. By contrast, South Korea and Japan have 240 days. China has 220 days. This means American children will eventually compete with Asian kids who have had thousands of more hours of learning time.
Yes, it would be more expensive to add days to the school year. But not as much as you might think. For one thing, many fixed costs won’t change: administration, buildings, insurance, utilities—those costs are the same whether there are kids in the buildings or not.
And there may be help from the federal government. A new proposal called the TIME Act (H.R. 1636 & S. 851) is now pending in Congress, and over 40 national organizations (including Chalkboard) have signed letters of support. It would redesign public schools to add significantly more learning time—at least 300 additional hours—for children in the country’s poorest communities. States who meet the criteria would apply for financial grants to extend their school year or the length of their school days.
Yes, this will cost money. But the cost of maintaining the status quo may be much more. First, high school dropouts usually end up on welfare rolls, collecting food stamps and other government subsidies. Many end up in our corrections system. All very expensive. But by far the greatest cost is falling behind other countries that have a better educated workforce and more people with the skill sets to create new enterprises. It’s no stretch to say there’s a national security issue here if America falls too far behind other developed nations whose populations are better educated and better prepared to compete economically.
Yes, summer vacation may conjure up visions of kids playing ball and going to camp. And nobody’s taking those things away. But we need to re-think our short school year if we expect the next generation to compete with other countries that have their kids in classrooms while our kids are in the “summer slide.”