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Beware the ‘summer slide’

May 26, 2012
By Klint Willert , Marshall Independent

On Friday, May 18, the Marshall Public Schools celebrated high school graduation. As our community recognizes and celebrates the achievements of the graduates of 2012, it is a reminder that school is officially out for summer.

With summer vacation comes family trips, baseball games and softball games, days at the pool, and a host of other fun summer activities. These are certainly important events that can create lasting memories.

But, with summer vacation come the "summer slide" or learning loss for students.

Research has demonstrated that summer vacation can have a negative impact on student achievement and learning. As Harris Cooper, a researcher from Duke University, studied the impacts of summer vacation on student learning, across the board he discovered that all students lose mathematics skills over the summer.

Additionally, his research found while middle class students did not experience significant losses in reading, students in lower-income households lose both read and spelling skills over the summer months.

In fact, through his research, he suggests that the loss of reading and spelling skills among lower income students may be an explanation of a growing student achievement game between the families who have financial resources and those who do not.

To address this concern, Cooper and his colleagues suggest that quality summer learning programs have a significant positive effect on student learning, with a greater positive effect on middle class students than students from lower-income homes.

Parents have often asked me what they can do about the "summer slide" in student learning. To address our community's concerns about the "summer slide" Marshall Public Schools, in partnership with Marshall Community Services, offers several summer learning opportunities for students.

Programs such as the Summer Talents Academy and Jump Start Summer School provide students with learning opportunities and experiences that extend the classroom activities into the summer. The programs provide students a rich learning experience that helps keep those essential reading and mathematics skills sharp! These opportunities, and many more, can be found in the Summer Marshall Community Services brochure.

Parents and family members have opportunities to address the "summer slide" as well. Here are a few suggestions.

Access the web (in a positive way!) There are many great free web-based resources for students to practice skills and learn over the summer. Students may find interest in a web-site such as "The Science of Baseball" found at There are also online museums such as the Smithsonian Museum's Library and Archival Exhibits found on the web at

Use Driving Time as Review Time Traveling on a summer trip is a great time to review math skills, geography skills, and reading skills. Have your child calculate driving time, distances, and other 'road trip' calculations. Practice geography skills by quizzing your child on land features such as prairies, rivers, deltas, states, and capitals. If all else fails, remember to take a good book. The practice of reading keeps skills sharp.

Read, Read, Read Encourage your child to read every day. The local library is a great source of summer reading material that will capture the interests of your child and will help maintain reading skills. Setting aside 30 minutes a day to read is a powerful way to build reading skills. A free online motivational reading program with prizes for reading accomplishments can be found at

Visit a Local Park A quick trip to local parks such as Camden State Park or one of several other parks in the area is a great way to connect with nature. Often, park officials will have free handouts and information that can help enrich the park experience. Additionally, families can visit many of the nation's National Parks through the internet. For example, students can learn about and virtually visit many National Parks by visiting

Overall, summertime is a great time for families. With some creative thinking, pre-planning, and a bit of focus, the family time can still be quality learning time. Every little bit will help prevent the "summer slide" and will keep your child on the road to success in school, even when it is not in session. Best wishes for a great summer! And remember, it is a great day to be a Tiger!

If you wish, you can follow Superintendent Willert on Twitter - @SuptWillert.



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