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Summer Melt

Rosalie Gonzalez, Production Manager

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Nine months out of the year, students sit in classrooms constantly being fed information to prepare them for the future. Summer break, allows students to enjoy time away from school. No homework, no class schedules, no sleep deprivation, no expectations, just 10 weeks of pure freedom, right?

As many of us have experienced, the school year starts and the teacher is already frustrated due to the fact that the students can’t seem to remember anything from the year before. Now the first few months will be spent reviewing past content rather than introducing new material.

Some students complain because they don’t know why they can’t remember anything, others are bored because they remember everything in perfect detail, and some are perfectly in the middle.

What the majority of students are experiencing is known as the “summer brain drain” theory. It is based on the idea that students lose most or all of what they have learned from the previous year over summer break.

Studies have found that students can lose anywhere from one to three months worth of learning and the first four to six weeks of the fall are spent reviewing the lost material. In addition, it’s said that the the brain drain effect can be seen in children as early as the first grade.

Which raises the obvious question, how do we combat the issue?  

The most common solution is to have students review over break. But students review information all nine months of the school year, and if they study over break is it truly a break?

On top of that, it’s entirely possible that not all students would be willing or able to review at home over the summer.

Perhaps there is a deeper issue to the summer brain drain that many have been ignoring. Ever heard of the income-based achievement gap?

It refers to any significant difference in academic performance between students of higher income and students of lower income. The gap has been referenced and touched on in numerous theories, such as the idea that more books in the home or the option of books in the home gives children a head start in their education.

How it ties into the brain drain, however, is rather interesting. It is believed that the gap appears to be widening due to an increase in parental involvement/investment in their children’s learning.

So if a parent can’t afford to advance their child’s academics, it would suggest that they fall behind. Wealthier parents who are able to pay for tutoring or mentally stimulating summer camps would, in theory, give their child the advantage going into the next school year.

Now it’s a matter of accounting, (oddly enough math is the subject most commonly lost to the drain) should families splurge on education to avoid the wasted time of the fall ‘review period’ or save and hope the children will be responsible hardworking learners from fall until spring?    

A socioeconomic issue often proves more difficult to solve than just telling a bunch of lazy teens to read more over the summer. Maybe it’s time theorists and education staff alike start looking at a the bigger picture that proves more problematic by the day.

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Summer Melt