Friday, June 29, 2012

100 years of summer learning loss

I came across an article discussing the problem of summer learning loss in which there was the following line:

"Summer learning loss has been documented for more than 100 years. It's a very real issue and researchers today say kids can lose anywhere between one and three months of learning during the summer months alone."

This seems to have become the basis for summer enrichment programs (which I have no problem with if they are the voluntary decision of the parents and the child) and summer homework assignments (which seem highly intrusive into the life of the family). Yet I question how a "phenomenon" becomes an "issue," or at least an issue for the home rather than an issue for the school. After all, haven't we witnessed huge amounts of creativity and innovation over those 100 years? Haven't we had people who successfully built our airplanes, developed our internet, fixed our roofs, and serviced our cars? Haven't people been successful despite the fact that, as children, they experienced summer learning loss, and despite the fact that they were allowed a break during the summer to simply play?

I don't question the desire of educators to look at this phenomenon and develop their best techniques for making sure that children continue to learn when they return to school. But they should do it on their own time. There is ample time in the school day for children to learn. Just figure out, as education professionals, the best ways to get kids back on track.

My own belief is that relationship is the fundamental building block of education, and that some summer learning loss is due to the adjustment to new teachers. Some of my most enduring academic lessons stemmed from being inspired by the particular teachers I had. I was a math major in college and in graduate school before switching fields and studying psychology. But I still refer to Keats' "Ode to a Grecian Urn." I just happened to take an elective in college on Romantic Poetry to satisfy my school's requirement for courses outside my major. The teacher was inspiring and brilliant, and I never forgot what I learned.

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of professional experience in dealing with many different psychological issues. He is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers and currently works in his own private practice.

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