Summer Learning Loss

Addressing Summer Learning Loss (All Summer ’16) The vast majority of low-income children find that when schools close for the summer, learning opportunities, healthy meals, and medical care are no longer available.  Deprived of healthy stimulation, these children lose a significant amount of the skills they learned during the school year.  Researchers call it summer learning loss and while it impacts students at all grade and income levels, its effect is strongest among low-income children (After School Alliance, 2010; Von Drehle,2010; The Wallace Foundation, 2010; Wongkee, 2010; National Summer Learning Association, 2009a; Miller, 2007). “

Studies dating back to 1906 have consistently found that most students receive lower scores on the same standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they earned at the beginning of summer ( After School Alliance, 2010; Wongkee, 2010; McLaughlin & Smink, 2009; National Summer Learning Association, 2009a ).  Studies have also found that the effect of summers without learning is cumulative and that low-income children fall further and further behind their peers who participate in summer learning opportunities every year (Children, Youth and Families Education and Research Network, 2010; Terzian et al., 2009). “

Alexander, Entwisle, and Olson’s (2007) study of summer learning loss used data from the Baltimore Beginning School Study.  Their sample included a representative random sample of 790 school children whose educational progress was monitored from first grade through age 22. The researchers analyzed data from reading comprehension tests administered to the same students twice yearly (fall and spring), enabling them to isolate gains made during the school year from those made during the summer. They found that when test scores reflected mostly school year learning, low-income students kept pace with their higher-income classmates.

Downey, von Hippel, and Broh (2004) used data from 20,000 children included in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Cohort, to examine high- and low-income students’ learning rates during the school year and over the summer months.  Students’ reading and math test score gains were split into seasons so that differences between the school year and the summer months could be analyzed.  Results indicated that the achievement gap was already present before school began.

Research suggests that minority students with low socioeconomic status (working class poor) are at a distinct disadvantaged to their more affluent peers (middle to upper class).  Based on responses from over 6,600 households to the National Survey of America’s Families, Terzian and colleagues (2009) reported that children living in non-poor households (200 percent or above the federal poverty line) were more likely than children from poor households (below 200 percent of the poverty line) to participate in summer programs (29 percent versus 18 percent).

While low income, low SES parents generally want the same kinds of enriching experiences for their children as do well-off parents, they often lack the means to provide them (e.g., Chin and Phillips 2004).  Below are some relatively inexpensive ways to keep your scholars engaged during the summer months.

Suggestions to Divert Summer Learning Loss:

1.  Contact your child’s school, ask specific questions about what books are “just right” for your child.  Your child’s school should be able to tell you exactly what reading level your child is on.  

2.  Based on this information, ask your child what he/she is interested in reading.  Take this information and buy or check out “just right” books for your child.  If you get books that are above your child’s reading level, these types of books do not help your child comprehend better.  Make sure the books that you select are on your child’s level.

3.  Contact your local library.  The libraries do an excellent job with creating summer readinglists in conjunction with the area schools.

4.  Do exciting things with your kids.  i.e. Family vacations, trips to historic sites, nature walks, vacation bible school, all activities to keep the academic juices flowing.

5.  Turn learning, and reading comprehension into a family activity.  Read the same books as your child, and have “book talks” with your children about the books that you read.  This helps the students to keep pace, and also allows for you to focus on important topics in your child’s reading, i.e. plot, theme, specific character outcomes, predictions, inference, etc.

6.  Going outside to play can be accompanied with a writing activity describing what your child did during playtime.

Parents, please don’t think because school isn’t in session, that your kids should not still be learning.

Works Cited:

Afterschool Alliance.  (2010).  Summer: A Season When Learning is Essential. Issue Brief No. 43. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED511990.

Alexander, K.L., Entwisle, D.R., & Olson, L.S. (2007). Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap.  American Sociological Review, 72(2), 167-180.

Chin, Tiffani and Meredith Phillips. 2004. “Social Reproduction and Child-Rearing Practices: Social Class, Children’s Agency, and the Summer Activity Gap.” Sociology of Education 77:185–210.

Children, Youth and Families Education and Research Network. (2010). Research Spotlight: Programs to Overcome the Summer Learning Gap. Retrieved from

Downey, D.B., von Hippel, P.T., & Broh, B. (2004). Are Schools the Great Equalizer? School and Non-School Sources of Inequality in Cognitive Skills. American Sociological Review, 69(5), 613-635.

McLaughlin, B., & Smink, J. (2009). Summer Learning: Moving from the Periphery to the Core. The Progress of Education Reform, 10(3). Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States. Retrieved from

Miller, B.M. (2007). The Learning Season: The Untapped Power of Summer to Advance Student Achievement.  Paper commissioned by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. Retrieved from

National Summer Learning Association. (2009a). Doesn’t Every Child Deserve a Memorable Summer?  Retrieved from

Terzian, M., Moore, K.A., & Hamilton, K. (2009). Effective and Promising Summer Learning Programs and Approaches for Economically-Disadvantaged Children and Youth: A White Paper for the Wallace Foundation. Retrieved from

The Wallace Foundation. (2010). America After 3PM. Special Report on Summer: Missed Opportunities, Unmet Demand. Retrieved from

Von Drehle, D. (2010). The Case Against Summer Vacation. Time, August 2, 2010.

Wongkee, L. (2010). Summer Slide – Loss of Learning on Summer Break. The Truth About the Learning Gap- Do Kids Regress in the Summer? Retrieved from–loss-of-learning-in-the-summer-a218969.

Featured post

Mean Girl Behavior


The mean girl phenomenon is an unfortunate reality, affecting students of all ages. The use of relational aggression and the formation of cliques have become all too common in girls grades K-12.


Relational aggression is a kind of social torment that often exists without parents or teachers even knowing. Girls may use name-calling, rumor spreading, ostracizing (purposeful exclusion) and manipulation, to inflict serious psychological harm on their chosen targets. The results of this behavior are often scaring and long-term, leaving victims confused, upset and with no clear understanding of why they are being targeted.


There is no doubt that increased use of social media has led to a rise in mean girl behavior, specifically via “cyberbullying”. These attacks come in the form of gossip, harassment and hurtful comments. Girls may feel excluded on social media when pictures of events and social activities are posted as well. Pictures may also be used as a form of social ammunition to embarrass and humiliate female targets, creating a permanent record of this behavior.


Girls may engage in relational aggression for a number of reasons, including climbing the social ladder and peer pressure. Unfortunately many adults don’t view the aggression as serious or concerning and may ignore it as a “normal part of girl behavior and development”. Nothing could be further from the truth and the effects of this behavior can be devastating to the victims, as well as the instigators. Mean girls may be categorized as vicious, controlling and manipulative, characteristics that can lead to life-long depression, anger and unhappiness. Their self-loathing and dissatisfaction can lead to eating disorders and addictive tendencies.


Adults must raise their awareness of mean girl behaviors to intervene with both the victims and the agitators. The risks are too great to our girls, both physically and emotionally, so here are some warning signs that a girl may be engaging in mean girl behavior:


  1. She may struggle with envy and desire to have what other girls have
  2. She is appearance-focused, often overly concerned with her hair, clothes, face, make-up or weight
  3. She is status-focused, often obsessed with what others think of her
  4. She has friendship troubles and problems relating to other girls
  5. She is a member of a clique and has one exclusive group of friends
  6. She has control issues and is clearly the one in charge


The identification of these behaviors, or the victimization of targets, may require careful scrutiny by both parents and teachers. It is extremely important, though, to assist girls of any age in dealing with this problem so as to set them up for success and a healthy development of self-esteem and image.



Stefanie Werner, LMSW

Three Myths of Special Education Debunked

 Three Myths of Special Education Debunked


Myth #1 – Every child who struggles is guaranteed Special Education services.


As outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a student must meet two criteria to qualify for Special Education services. First, he/she must be diagnosed as having one of thirteen disabilities, and second, the school must determine that the student requires special education services in order to access the general education curriculum. If the student meets both criteria, an Individualized Education Program {IEP} will be developed.


Prior to initiating a Special Education referral, teachers and parents should ensure students have received school-based interventions for a period of time. If a student is not showing progress with these supports, a referral is warranted.


The thirteen categories of disability are as follows:

  • Autism
  • Deaf-Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Emotional Disturbance
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Multiple Disabilities
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Other Health Impairment {including ADHD}
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Speech or Language Impairment
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Visual Impairment {including blindness}


Myth #2 – Having an IEP means your child will be placed in a special education classroom.


The goal of special education is to place the student in their least restrictive environment. In other words, students should spend as much time as possible in the general education classroom.


Currently, Riverhead Charter School offers two academic programs – Resource Room or Integrated C0-Teaching {ICT}. Our Resource Room is a pull-out program in which students are removed from the general education classroom for forty minutes per day and taught by a Special Education teacher in a group of no more than five students. In our ICT setting, students receive the support of a Special Education teacher throughout all core subjects. Integrated Co-Teaching is more restrictive than Resource Room in that it provides Special Education support throughout the majority of the school day.


Myth #3 – Once classified, your child will always remain a special education student.


At a certain point in their educational career, a student may no longer require Special Education services to be successful in the general education classroom. When this is the case, the student no longer meets criteria as a student with a disability and will be declassified from Special Education. If the disability persists, classroom and testing accommodations may be available through a Section 504 Accommodation Plan.
For more information regarding topics of interest to parents of students with learning and attentional issues, please visit

RCS Parent-Child Connection

Keeping Our Kids Safe on Social Media


Children are taught at a very young age about the importance of sharing. It is a basic lesson that all are expected to master by elementary school with the old adage, “Share and share alike”. Unfortunately in the age of technological wonderment that we live in today, sharing too much can be dangerous.


Merriam-Webster defines social media as, “forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content (as videos)”. It’s first reported usage was in 2004. Twelve years later is has truly become a natural part of growing up for most children in the United States. Unfortunately, though, for parents it can be a full time job trying to keep up with the latest social networks and monitor different types of social media. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are reportedly the most popular today, but just as quickly as these applications exploded onto the scene, others can sprout up in their place. In addition, these known networks can come out with new features and new settings that parents will not necessarily be aware of.


The savvy of most tweens and teens is highly greater than their parents and these children of aware of this discrepancy. Children today have been brought up in the world of cell phones, tablets, X-box and DS, barely aware of their actual surroundings. Their attention is focused on handheld devices that could lead them down a road that may fork in two directions, safety and oblivion. Guidance down this path must start with the individuals responsible for the health and well-being of these young people. Unfortunately social media sites can morph into a source of drama among friends, especially girls, when these children are documenting too many life details on networks. In their naïve state, they fail to realize that all of this information is on a public network and casual online interactions can affect their futures. Because of their limited capacity for self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure, children and teens are at some risk as they navigate and experiment with social media. (Schurgin-Okeeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011) Parents are the first line of defense for keeping children safe from possible harmful results of reckless activities online.


Regardless of the time it may take and the effort involved, parents must keep up to date on social networks. One of the biggest concerns is how much time kids spend on the internet, but 43% of parents admit they do not monitor their child’s activity. Most parents have never used popular applications such as Snapchat and Instagram, but the need for adult supervision is incredibly important. This may be the only way to ensure that initial mistakes do not spiral out of control. One of the biggest threats to young people on social media sites is to their “digital footprint” and future reputations. Preadolescents and adolescents who lack an awareness of privacy issues often post inappropriate messages, pictures and videos without understanding “what goes online, stays online”. (Schurgin-O’Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011) Later on in life, when our children begin applying to colleges and employment opportunities, a quick online search can beget many past indiscretions that most do not even remember posting. Our children’s futures are far too important to risk with a picture, a message or anything that we can put a stop to before it starts.


The following are some basic tips to assist with supervising social media usage:

  1. Create an age limit
  2. Monitor usage – establish limits on friends and followers
  3. Know all passwords (cell devices and computers)
  4. Keep the computer in a common area
  5. Find out how to report and block certain usage
  6. Require private profiles – use privacy settings



Stefanie Werner, LMSW

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