Become an “Education Coach” and Keep the Summer Slide at Bay All Season

Summer is upon us – and with that comes what some call the “summer slide” in students’ academic skills while out of school. There are things that you as a parent can do, though, to take charge and make learning a priority even as the dog days of the season approach.

Below are some ways you can make learning like a sports game. As an “education coach” you can challenge and encourage any child in your life:

  • Set goals – What will you and your child accomplish by a set time?  Examples:  “After two weeks we will know how to count by twos to 50.” Or “After one week we will know how to print your first name.”
  • Practice – Take 15 to 20 minutes a day to work on each goal. Talk about the importance of practice and grit – patience and resilience — in making steady progress.
  • Put some plays into effect – Look for different ways to apply the skills being developed.  Example: Take your child to the store and have her add up the items you have purchased. Get some fresh and free ideas from FREE (Federal Registry for Educational Excellence).
  • Make some touchdowns that will make a difference in their upcoming school year. Help your child to see how what he has done over the summer will put him ahead in the fall. Get a workbook or reading book at the grade level in which she will be.  By mid-summer take out the book and let her begin to work on the areas she has been practicing.
  • Take your team on the road – Have fun and incorporate learning into a summer adventure. Example: Visit a museum, zoo, aquarium, beach or park. Look at maps together and identify where you will visit and how far you will travel. Have your child draw and write about their favorite parts of the trip in the order the events happened.
  • Celebrate – Have a mid-summer reward and really celebrate at the end of the summer for all the goals set that your champion has accomplished!

Carrie Jasper is director of outreach to parents and families at the U.S. Department of Education.

Recognizing the Importance of Summer Learning Day

Today we join hundreds of communities and programs across the country in celebrating National Summer Learning Day, a recognized national advocacy day to spread awareness about the importance of summer learning to our nation’s youth—specifically, in helping close the achievement gap and supporting healthy development.

Summer learning is everywhere; it’s happening in cities and towns all across the country. Today in Fayetteville, NC, the local university is opening its doors to local youth to learn about its College Readiness Summer Institute and how they can participate. In Louisville, KY, Mayor Greg Fischer joined other prominent local figures to kick off Every 1 Learns, a citywide summer learning effort designed to provide access to academic support and meaningful work experience for Louisville youth.

Find more summer learning opportunities across the country on our interactive Summer Learning Day Map.

Last month, I blogged on HomeRoom about how families can keep their teens learning and preparing for college and careers this summer. A few weeks later, First Lady Michelle Obama joined students in San Antonio to highlight her college access initiative Reach Higher. She is supporting President Obama’s “North Star” goal of returning the U.S. to being the leader in college graduates by 2020. One of the core solutions in achieving that goal is summer learning. The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) is excited to partner with the First Lady in helping teens “Reach Higher” all summer long and beyond.

Today it is a true honor to share the stage with the First Lady at the U.S. Department of Education to celebrate National Summer Learning Day. Bringing together high school students and education leaders from across the country, our event highlights the critical role summer learning plays in preparing young people for successful college entry and completion.

The First Lady and other guests will see and hear from young people about the incredible things they learned last summer, like how to write a personal statement,  teach and mentor younger youth, dance, cook healthy meals, apply for financial aid, and even dissect a sheep brain.

The 100 youth joining us today have the opportunity of a lifetime to participate in exemplary programs, and we hope to extend that opportunity to all young people who need and want that experience. Across the country, we’re beginning to see school districts partner with institutions of higher education and other nonprofits to offer rigorous coursework, counseling, and meaningful work experience for young people in the summer, and it’s changing lives.

There’s great reason to believe that summer learning opportunities can increase college access and completion among first generation college students. We’re thrilled that Mrs. Obama has taken notice of the importance of summer learning, and we’re honored to work with her on such an important issue for our nation’s youth.

Sarah Pitcock is CEO of the National Summer Learning Association.

Lessons Learned: The Importance of Summer Experiential Learning

Last Friday, I found myself in an elementary school classroom engaging with students on the topic of summer learning. Studies demonstrate that there is a notable trend of learning loss when young people do not engage in educational opportunities during summer months; thus, summer programs and activities are paramount to preventing the “summer slide”.

As I worked with the students, a light went on in my head as to how I conduct my own academic journey. Learning through action, discovery, and self-exploration can be as valuable as classroom experiences. These instances of experiential learning give me the chance to take classroom theories and practice them. What better time to engage in experiential learning than during the months away from school!

Whether it is getting involved with an internship or simply a local service organization, I challenge all students—especially those in high school and college— to step out of their comfort zones and try something new:

  1. Start your search by determining if your school has a service program; my college has an “Applied Study Term” option that allows us to take a semester off from coursework to grow in the community. These programs are often paired with grant and scholarship opportunities to cover incidental costs. If you’re still in high school, reach out to local organizations, like a community center, a museum, a youth group, or even your own school or library.
  2. Once you’ve narrowed your interests, contact relevant organizations for an interview. I dare you to pick an organization based on the personal contribution you can make to it rather than its name or prestige. Being able to “own” your assignments will help you discover your passions.
  3. Now that you have found a niche, make sure to have fun and connect your experiences over the summer with classroom knowledge. Your mind grows brighter with every light bulb moment.

They always say that the most important lessons in life come from experiencing it; ironically, my lesson still happened in a classroom through my summer internship with ED, just 822 miles away from home.

Michael Lotspeich is an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach and a junior at the University of Illinois-Springfield.

Cooling Off Summer Melt: From High School Graduation to the First Day on Campus

Having worked tirelessly towards this culminating moment, June is always an exciting time of year for graduating seniors and their families. Filled with college-going tasks and deadlines, the senior year is intense, and students look forward to the brief reprieve of summer. With the bulk of the college-readiness tasks behind them, all that is left for a student to do is attend commencement, update Instagram with a celebratory selfie, and report to college the first day of class, right? Well, not entirely.

Summer is a critical time for college-going seniors and an optimal time to continue to reach out and engage them in the college process. Having access to a rich social network that will continue to advise them on how to navigate their college pathway, remind them of deadlines and tasks, and help them to overcome their barriers over the summer months, is one of the most valuable tools a graduating senior can have. Here are a few resources to consider for your students social network:

  • Educators: Encourage your student to stay connected with school counselors, teachers, administrators, and college advisors over the summer months. School counselors are uniquely trained to help students navigate the college-going process and are a great resource. Some school districts specifically employ school counselors over the summer months to advise and assist seniors with challenges that may arise.
  • Parents/Guardians: Talk with your student often about the college process. Studies show that speaking frequently to your student about college increases the likelihood of enrollment by seven percentage points.
  • Peers: Connect your student with others going to college for the first time or students already enrolled in the college he or she will attend. Peer influence increases the likeliness of enrollment by over 14 percentage points.
  • Colleges & Universities: Link your student with the new learning community early. Most colleges and universities offer programs that connect with students over the summer months. While some do so through social media, reminding them about mandatory deadlines and tasks, others offer in-person programs such as freshman orientation and bridge programs. Contact your student’s admission office and inquire about such opportunities.

I’ve spoken to thousands of students over the years, and when asked who had the greatest influence in their accomplishments, without fail, nine out of ten times, they name a parent or guardian. Your support and encouragement not only inspires them to go to college, but will sustain them through their pursuit of their degree. As a Professional School Counselor, I’ve watched this moment play out in the lives of numerous families. I encourage you to stop, be present, and tell your student how proud you are of them.

Jasmine Mcleod is the 2014 Scholar-in-Residence for the American Counseling Association and Instructional Systems Specialist for  School Counseling & Psychology at DoDEA schools.

Stopping the Summer Slide

Summer is the perfect time for students of all ages to relax, but it’s also a time when summer learning loss can occur. This learning loss is called the “summer slide,” and happens when children do not engage in educational activities during the summer months.

Let's Read Event

Members of the Washington Kastles get kids moving during the Department of Education’s annual Let’s Read, Let’s Move event. The events focus on keeping children’s minds and bodies active during the summer.

While summer vacation is months away, many parents are starting to plan for summer now. As you’re thinking about your plans for the upcoming summer break, we’ve gathered a few ideas and activities that you and your children – no matter their ages – can complete throughout the summer.

For Elementary and Middle School Students:

  • Parents of younger students can create a summer reading list with their children, and then reward them when they finish each book.
  • Additionally, parents can encourage their kids to think outside of the box with arts and crafts. Sites such as kids.gov and NGA Kids have great ideas that will let any child’s imagination run wild and stimulate creativity.
  • Summertime can be a great time to teach healthy eating habits. Parents can get ideas for tasty and nutritious meals at Let’s Move! and kidshealth.org. There is also information available about the USDA Summer Food Program, which was established to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session.

For High School Students:

  • Summer can be the perfect time for high school-aged children to prepare for college, and setting aside at least one day a week to keep math and science skills fresh is an excellent way to start off the summer. Local libraries are an excellent place to find books full of practice problems – and they’re quiet and often air-conditioned too!
  • Summer is also a good time to sit down and discuss financial aid and other expenses. Our Office of Federal Student Aid has prepared checklists geared toward students of all ages.
  • Many high school students might also want to take the time to start developing their professional resumes. Finding a part-time job can help students gain valuable experience and line their pockets with a bit of extra cash.  Visit www.wh.gov/youthjobs for more information.
  • Volunteering is also an option. Youth-oriented summer camps, local museums, animal shelters and, of course, libraries are often looking for extra help during warmer months. This experience is not only valuable for personal and professional development, but it often looks good on college applications. Find opportunities at volunteer.gov.

Share your own summer tips and resources with the hashtag #SummerSuccess on Twitter, and look for more information from the U.S. Department of Education in the coming months as we count down to Summer Learning Day on Friday, June 20.

Dorothy Amatucci is a new media analyst in the Office of Communications and Outreach

Seize the Summer: Keep Kids Active & Engaged in Learning

Did you know? Students can experience learning loss when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer months. On average, students lose the equivalent of two months of math and reading skills during the summer months. More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities.

ReadingThis summer, let’s work to change that. Together, parents, guardians, and community members can help give our children the best foundation for the upcoming school year.

Stay Engaged:

Encourage reading all summer long. This will help prevent the “summer slide” and provide benefits that can be seen year-round.

  • Visit the local library and help your child put together a summer reading list. Celebrate each time he or she finishes a book, this will encourage them to complete the list by the time the summer ends.

Be Creative:

Summer is the perfect time to let your child’s imagination run wild and stimulate creativity. Kids.gov provides resources for arts and crafts projects that will keep children engaged and their minds active while having fun.

  • NGA Kids – Choose from a variety of activities or projects from the National Gallery of Art, enjoy an animated musical adventure, take a tour through the sculpture garden, and more.
  • Smithsonian – Are your children fans of Night at the Museum? Then this is the perfect activity for them. Here you are magically taken to the museums at night. To get back home, you have to solve mysteries and help your new friends find their artworks.

Stay Active & Healthy:

In addition to academic risks, children can also be at an increased risk of weight gain when they are out of school during the summer months. Take advantage of the warmer weather and keep youth active outdoors.

  • KidsHealth.org – How do you feed a picky eater or encourage a child to play outside? Learn how to keep your child healthy with the right foods and exercise.
  • Let’s Move! – Opportunities for kids to be physically active, both in and out of school and create new opportunities for families to be moving together.
  • USDA Summer Food Program-  This U.S. Department of Agriculture program provides free meals to all children 18 years old and under in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.

For additional tips throughout the summer, follow @usedgov on Twitter, and check out the U.S. Department of Education Facebook page.

Kelsey Donohue works in the Office of Communication and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education

Top 5 Ways to Prevent Rusty Summer Readers

With summer vacation started or on its way, as parents or guardians, it’s important to ensure that reading remains on your child’s schedule even while school is out. Reading over the summer is important not only because it improves literacy and language skills, but also because it prevents what has become known as the “summer slide”—a regression in reading ability.

A student reads a bookStudies show that children who don’t read or who read rarely over the summer encounter a stagnation or decline in their reading skills.

With that in mind, here are five of the best ways to keep your child reading this summer:

  1. Let your child choose what they want to read – or be read to – for 30 minutes each day. Children are much more likely to engage in material that interests them rather than materials that are forced on them.
  2. Use language and reading opportunities throughout the day.  Talk often with your child and point out reading materials wherever possible:  on menus, magazines and newspapers, signs, brochures, maps, guidebooks, smartphones, ipads, etc.
  3. Make daily reading a social event. Get the whole family to join in with their own books or take turns reading the same book aloud. Include telling stories as well.
  4. Connect reading to other summer events. If you take your child to the zoo, think about reading a book about animals before and afterward. This will place your child’s reading within a larger context.
  5. Make reading a lifestyle choice. Keep books all around the house to cultivate an atmosphere of reading, and set an example by reading yourself. Children need good models of reading books, magazines, or newspapers.

Madison Killen is a student at the University of California Berkeley and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach

Why Summer Reading Pays Off Year-Round

Attention parents: even though summer is almost over, it’s not too late to help your child become a better reader before the new school year begins. Summer is an important time for students to keep reading and improve their language skills. If your child hasn’t been reading regularly this summer, they may be in danger of the “summer slide”—a decline in their reading ability.

Numerous studies indicate that students who don’t read or read infrequently during their summer vacation see their reading abilities stagnate or decline. This effect becomes more pronounced as students get older and advance through the school system. The situation for economically disadvantaged students is especially grim: if students from low-income families don’t read over the summer, they are much more likely to fall behind their more privileged peers, widening the “achievement gap.”

“It’s like if you play an instrument but put it down for three months,” said Laurie Calvert, a teacher who is working as the Director of Teacher Outreach at ED. She wrote an academic thesis on improving summer reading programs at her North Carolina high school. “You’re not going to be as good as a person who continues to play the instrument over those three months.”

However, this “summer slide” can be avoided by ensuring that children are as engaged as possible in whatever they choose to read—just as long as they’re reading every day.

“Anything that keeps students reading works,” Calvert said. “The more engaged you are in the text, the closer you’re going to read it. The closer you read it, the more you comprehend. And that process grows your skill.”

The best ways to keep your child from becoming a “rusty reader” over the summer are:

  1. Encourage your children to read books they enjoy for at least 30 minutes per day. Your child will likely be more engrossed in material they choose themselves than material that is forced on them.
  2. Provide incentives for reluctant readers. For example, if your child enjoys basketball, agree to take them to the local court if they do their “daily reading.”
  3. Make reading a social act. Establish a time during the day when all members of the family gather and read on their own, or take turns reading the same book aloud.
  4. Connect your reading to family outings. If you take your kids to an aquarium, consider reading a book about fish or the ocean with them later that day. The outing can help place the reading into a broader context.

There’s still time for kids to pick up a book this summer. Take your children to your local library or bookstore and let them pick out a book they’re going to love today. They will be better readers tomorrow for it.