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Ohio educators try to combat the "summer slide"
Education secretary talks about how to keep students from losing skills over the summer

Kids may enjoy playing during summer break, but they often forget some of what they learned the previous school year.
Courtesy of Kymberly Janisch
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As many school years wind down this week, StateImpact Ohio's Amy Hansen explores the impact of the "summer slide,"  or the regression of students' skills during their scholastic breaks.


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School summer vacations tend to leave U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan a little bit baffled.

“Students and teachers work so hard, get to a certain point in June, and too many come back in the fall further behind than when they left,” says Duncan. “That just simply makes no sense.”

Research shows many students, especially low-income students, tend to loose math and reading skills over the summer.

Duncan thinks that could be combated by having more time in school than they are getting today. 

“If we’re serious about ending the cycles of poverty and social failure, the traditional calendar, six, six and a half hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year, is insufficient if we’re serious about the traditional is insufficient for some children,” says Duncan.

Year-round school
One alternative? Year-round schooling.

In education circle,s they call it a “balanced calendar”: students go to school for periods of around 30 to 45 days, mixed with a handful of two- to three-week breaks. A few schools within the Cleveland Metropolitan School District have already switched to this kind of schedule, and a few more plan to.

Sarah Pitcock, CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, says the idea that year-round school is the solution to summer learning loss is questionable. She points to an Ohio State study on the balanced calendar to make her case. 

“Kids lost the same amount of learning over the course of the year over a balanced calendar, it’s just they lose it in smaller pieces,” Pitcock says. “I think our response to that approach is you still have to think about those intercessions, and the question is really, how can you add more time for the kids who need it most.”

The discussion also focused on ways to make the time out of the classroom count.

Education Secretary Duncan stressed the responsibility of parents finding ways to keep their kids engaged during school breaks.

Parents were encouraged to check out partners in their communities, like libraries or other organizations, that may offer some educational summer programming to keep students learning over school breaks.

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