Summer Melt

It’s summer time! Across the nation thousands of recent high school graduates are enjoying their last summer before their first college semester. They are submitting deposits, selecting courses, packing, and anxiously awaiting their first day. However, a large portion of students from low-income communities will have a very different summer experience. Despite being college eligible and in some cases even enrolled, these students will not attend in the fall and will instead “melt” away during the summer.

Graduation CapsThis is called “summer melt”. Nationally about 10 to 20 percent of college eligible students melt away, most of which are low-income minority students planning to enroll in community college. In the Southwest district that includes Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, 44 percent of students melt away. The melt was 19 percent for four-year institutions and 37 percent for community colleges in 2011. The lower a student’s income, the more likely they are to experience summer melt because they lack the necessary resources and support. This means that we are losing future Latino leaders and innovators over the summer. We cannot allow this to happen.  A higher education is not just a pathway to opportunity, it is a prerequisite.

This is an important issue for the Latino community because the jobs of the 21st century will require some workforce training or postsecondary education.  As more Latinos graduate from high school every year we need to ensure that they not only access higher education but are prepared to graduate. By 2050 about 30 percent of the US population will be Latino. Also for a majority of low-income minority students, community college is often the selected path to obtain a college degree. So we must address summer melt to increase the number of Latinos earning two and four-year degrees.

This issue can be alleviated via simple measures at home during summer. Parents, speak frequently with your child about college and help them prepare for their fall semester. Encourage them to attend their freshman orientation and encourage them to interact with friends who are enrolled and attending college. Furthermore, encourage your student to remain in contact with school counselors, teachers, and college administrators over summer to ensure that their questions are answered. Students, make sure that you get organized over summer and stay on top of all deadlines. Remember, you are already accepted but you cannot get your college degree if you do not show up.

Alejandra Ceja is the executive director for the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanics

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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.