Education systems and reforms such as the No Child is Left behind inthe United States have been introduced in several countries toincrease the effectiveness of the learning process. The aim of anyeducation system is to ensure that the learners are able to reachtheir maximum learning potential. The systems have devised ways andmeans through which the educators can improve the learningachievement among students (Arnold, 2013). One of the factors thathave been identified as a major cause of concern in the learningprocess has been the summer vacation learning loss. Multiple studieshave shown that summer vacation results in differential rates oflearning loss (Arum & Velez, 2012). Researchers distinguishlearning programs as the potentially effective measures to reducesummer learning loss. However, only few studies identified theimpacts of summer packets and summer programs in reducing the loss ofacademic skills during summer break.
In the modern families, the need for both the father and the motherto have an income has become essential. Both parents spend most ofthe time away from home. The unavailability of parents during summerholidays has changed the dynamics of the modern education system(Borman et al, 2009). While some parents are opposed to summerprograms, they support the idea of summer homework to keep the youngand energetic children busy. Although there are limited databases onsummer vocational activities, both academic and non academic, indifferent parts of the world, it is am emerging trend in the moderneducation system. Nonetheless, the main aim of academic summeractivities is to link the learning process and avoid summer learningloss. However, according to Keithm & Joseph (2013), the summerprograms have divergent effects on the academic and non academiclife.
According to Biancarosa et al (2010), growth during academic years,from fall to spring, is greatly steeper compared to growth duringsummertime or the period from spring to fall. Further, percentage ofsummer learning varied from one grade level to another (Bourmanand Boulay, 2012 Biancarosa, Bryk, and Dexter, 2010). Summerlearning loss has evolved into an important issue in the modernlearning environment. During the summer vacation students rarelyengage themselves in academic tasks and this makes them forgetconcepts and ideas they learned in the previous academic year. Thisnecessitates the use of the first few weeks of the fall in remedialprograms to acquaint the students with the school environment andremind them about the concepts learned in the previous year beforeintroducing new concepts (Crowe, Hyun, and Kretovics, 2012). However,there are several other learning strategies that have been employedto reduce the extent of summer learning loss.
The learning loss experienced during summer vacation accumulates tosignificant learning gap. Cumulatively, the summer learning loss hasa huge impact on the education achievement, especially amongdisadvantaged learners. Allington andMcgill-Franzen et al (2010) suggested that summer programs,especially the summer reading clubs are effective tools for reducingthe learning gap among the school children irrespective of their age,socioeconomic, and gender differences. Researchers identified thatthese programs either improves or retains the reading levels duringthe summer break. However, the effectiveness of summer learningprograms depends on components of the program, attitude of thestudents, and support from the parent and instructors (Mccombs,2011). Apart from improving academic achievement, summer programshave other benefits, which include improvement of behavioral andsocio-emotional outcomes, persistent to school, and improved schoolyear attendance. Based on these research based findings, someeducationists have argued in favor of summer education programs(McCombs, 2011).
One of the things that have been introduced in order to diminish theexistence of summer learning loss is the regularity in the attendancein high-quality afterschool as well as summer programs. After schoolprograms have been recognized to have beneficial impacts on thechildren’s learning retention (Zvoch andStevens, 2011). In a research conducted by Mclaughlin and Pitcock(2009), children who are engaged in afterschool programs are given abroad range of enrichment opportunities. Further, they are taught howto build healthy relationship with their peers. Children are alsoprovided with opportunities for mastery as well as skill-building(Mclaughlin and Pitcock, 2009). If a skill is not put topractice, the probability of losing it is quite high.
Cooper, Borman and Fairchild (2010), conducted a research todetermine if indeed summer learning had any effect on the learners.The research showed that learners lose their educational balanceduring this time. This problem is especially high in learners whocome from low income earning families. The importance of givingsummer homework is to ensure that students continue to get therequired instructions within the education sector. As stated byBradley & Waltz (2010), summerhomework has helped reduce learningloss significantly. Since 1981, learning losses as a result of summervacation were reduced by about 51 percent (Bradley & Waltz,2010).
Annually, students in the United States attend school forapproximately 180 days. Studies indicate that during this period aremarkable progress along the course of learning and growth in termsof skills and knowledge is achieved (Smith, 2012). To maintain thistrend research on education matters suggest that stakeholder whoinclude teachers, funders, parents and governments at all levelsneed to come together in an attempt to cut short the learning lossthat occurs during summer. This is achievable by involving more younglearners in summer learning activities. A good summer learningprogram would be the one that blends a myriad of many learningactivities such as art, hands on activities and developmentalrelationships. An even better way is to increase the amount ofhomework given to learners during summer.
McCombs et al (2011) study reported proof that summer programs arebeneficial in preventing summer learning loss. The authorsrecommended summer learning programs to be taken seriously since theyare effective in reducing the achievement gap. Summer programs aremade up of small classes in which students are encouraged to attendregularly (McCombs et al, 2011). Summer programs offer individualizedinstruction and provide a combination of enrichment and academicactivities (McCombs et al, 2011). Researchers likewise suggest thateven though current study is accessible on how various summerprograms can impact academic performance, there has notbeenactivities and developmental relationships. An even better way isto increase the amount of homework given to learners during summer.
For example, some studies have indicated varying rates of theacademic achievements at the end of summer due to summer homework(Dantis and Slattery, 2011). The argument here was that summerhomework contributed positively in basic mathematics and sciencesubjects. Nevertheless, the impact of summer homework varies acrossfactors including academic levels and socioeconomic status(Cox-Petersen, 2011). Instead, additional studies agree that summerhomework has a positive impact on learning loss reduction. In a studyconducted by Smith (2012), there is a consistent link between summerhomework and improved academic achievements during fall, regardlessof the family income or English proficiency. This study not onlyreflected reduction in learning loss, but it also heightened thestudent’s academic skills and knowledge as they prepare for a newacademic year.
Studies have shown that students lose the skills they do not practiceduring the summer vacations. Some key players in the education sectorfeel that summer homework assignments are effective interventions tocurb the slide (Fiester, 2010). According to Fiester (2010) theessence of assigning reading to students during the summer break isto ensure continuous delivery of instructions. His study also foundsummer homework assignments ensure progressive learning betweenspring and fall, thus reducing the chances for students to forgetreading and computation skills learned in the previous year.According to Cooper et at (2010), across the board, all learners havebeen observed to lose some math skills during summer vacation.Although a significant number of learners may not lose their readingskills, some students, especially the poor lose some spelling andreading skills achieved in the previous learning period. The patternsof summer learning loss have also been used to explain some of thelearning achievement gaps when learners from different economicbackgrounds are compared (Weiss et al, 2009).
The three year study conducted by Carran and Flore (2010) exploredthe impacts that summer learning programs in public libraries had onthe learner’s achievement. The study involved students from smalland large communities in urban, suburban, and rural areas during thesummer. Themain focus of the study was on low-income families (Carranand Flore, 2010). Researchers suggested that students involved in thesummer reading programs demonstrated greater reading achievementcompared to students who did not take active involvement (Carran andFlore, 2010).
This has resulted from the belief that summer packets can reducelearning loss that occurs during the vacation (Smith, 2012). In spiteof this, very few studies have established a positive correlationbetween summer homework and test scores. This has raised the ongoingdebate among the key concerned parties as to whether summer homeworkhas any academic value on students. Every year, students in theUnited States attend school for approximately 180 days. Studiesindicate that during this period a remarkable progress along thecourse of learning and growth in terms of skills and knowledge isachieved (Smith, 2012). Other studies prior to this have givencontradicting resultson the impact of summer homework in reducinglearning loss. For example, some studies have indicated varying ratesof the academic achievements at the end of summer due to summerhomework (Dantis and Slattery, 2011)
The main controversy about the effect of summer homework assignmentsis its contribution in improving academic achievement. Differentresearchers suggested varying rates (between 8-31 %) of academicimprovements during the fall as a result of summer homework (VanVoorhis, 2011). The researcher identified that summer homeworkassignments resulted in significant improvements, in elementary mathand other middle school science subjects. Still, the impact of summerhomework assignments varies with several factors such associoeconomic and academic level. However, a research by Loertscherand Marcoux (2012) contradicted these findings by indicating aconsistent association between summer reading assignments andimprovement in reading proficiency regardlessthe social background.The study established a positive link between the volumes of assignedsummer readings and improvement in elementary grades. This impliesthat a greater involvement in academic tasks during the summer breaknot only reduces the summer slide, but it also increases academicskills in preparation for the upcoming school year.
Reading is one of the many activities that are strongly encouragedduring summer (Allington et al, 2010).According to Allington et al (2010), researchers have reported theimpact of summer reading setback. More than two decades ago, Hayesand Grether conducted a study to 600 New York City elementary schoolsin which they compared the cumulative reading developmentof studentsin high as well as low-poverty schools over time. Their analyses ofthe achievement gains generated at the end of the academic yearshowed improvement among the students (Allington et al, 2009).
21st Century Community Learning Centers
The 21st CCLC Grant Program`s emphasis is tooffer extended academic enrichment opportunities for childrenattending low-performing schools.  Discussion group services andacademic enrichment activities are created to help students meetlocal and state educational standards in topics such as reading andmath. Also, 21st CCLC programs provide youth developmentactivities, technology education programs, art, music and recreationprograms, counseling and character education to improve the academiccomponent of the program.  According to Beckett (2010) conductedan evaluation of the 21stCentury Community Learning Centers and found that one of itscharacteristics is that it is more of an after-school funding streamrather than a specific after-school program model. Further, Beckett(2010) discovered the negative effects that go along with the21stCentury CommunityLearning Centers (CCLC) program during thesecond year, a greater number of participants were suspended and weredisciplined in school due to behavioral problems.
The most common intervention summer learning loss generallyencompasses conventional summer school programs which focus immenselyon the remediation of reading difficulties as well as thereinforcement of skills in reading comprehension by way of a highlyprescriptive curricula and an incorporation of skills books and tests(Kim and White, 2011). Their study also found remedial summerprograms generate short-term achievement benefits that tend todiminish through time, and thebenefits are larger for thoseindividuals belonging in the middle class than those who are earninglow-income (Kim and White, 2011). However, the programs are notwithout some challenges. For example, according to Grossman et al(2009), the quality of summer learning programs is adversely affectedthe learners to educators’ ratios. When the number of learners isrelatively high compared to the number of facilitators, theeffectiveness of the programs diminishes significantly.
In the past years, focus on summer learning programs for thedisadvantaged student has grown immensely. The majority of thisheightened attention may involve impulsion of the No Child LeftBehind legislation and by researches on summer learning loss whichdiscover that low-income youth lose ground more in reading skillsover the summer than their higher income peers (Kim and Guryan,2010). Some researchers oppose the summer homework on grounds.
Researchhas noted that parental involvement tends to decline at all levels ofeducation (Epstein, et al. 2002). The research has put forth severalconclusions as to why this might be the case. Firstly, the lack ofcurriculum knowhow among parents of learners in higher grades.Secondly, some young learners prefer less involvement of theirparents in their education. Thirdly, some parentschoose to pursuetheir career goals after their children have gained someindependence. The research also noted that lack of knowledge byteachers on how to effectively engage the parents in the educationalmatters of their children. The same research also noted that theeconomic strength of the family is also a critical factor when itcomes to parent’s involvement in their children’s education. Theresearch noted that well-to-do parents are actively involved with theeducation of their children at all levels and the vice versa foreconomically strained parents. According to Stephanie& Monique (2014), parental involvement and the knowledge levelamong parents is a significant factor in determining the extent ofsummer learning loss among young learners.
A study of Teacher InvolveParents in Schoolwork (TIPS) program indicated 65% involvement offamily members in homework assignments for TIPS year 1 and 88 %involvement of family members in homework assignments for TIPS year 2(Van Voorhis, 2011).
Nonetheless,Van Voorhis (2011) opposed this suggestion through a study whichindicated that variations in students and parents` attitudes towardhomework and its effects on the student’s achievements relate tofactors other than time. This means that summer packets should bedesigned in a manner that takes care of academic and non-academicinterests of children.
Accordingto Bennett & Kalish (2006) both parents and most teachers have noproven facts about the effects of homework assignments on students’performance. Most of these parents view homework assignments as asource of tension and stress. Their study also revealed parents arguethat the homework robs children of their sleep and exercise time,which are necessary for physical, neurological, and emotionaldevelopment. Nonetheless, Van Voorhis (2011) opposed this suggestionthrough a study, which indicated that variations in students andparents` attitudes toward homework and its effects on the student’sachievements relate to factors other than time. Summer packets shouldbe designed in a manner that takes care of academic and non-academicinterests of children.
Ina study by Celano and Neuman (2009), it was found that children fromlow and middle income families make use of computers and librarybooks differently. Even though the researchers found that both groupsof children utilized public libraries almost all the time, childrenbelonging to well-off families were exposed to more books and made ofmore educational computer applications as well as obtained moresupport from adults. The findings also suggested an unequalutilization of informal resources which may result to a broadening ofknowledge gap between low and middle income families. Students fromlow income families’ experience an average loss in readingperformancessummer vacation, students lose about 2.6 months scorelevel equivalency in mathematics (Ready, 2010).
According to Allington& McGill-Franzen (2010) the learning lossamong students over summer yields a performance gap in readingachievement amid the higher and lower income students. Further, heasserts that while student performance for students regardless oftheir socio-economic status improve at the same rate over the schoolcalendar, the students from low-income families experience increasinglearning losses in basic school grades.
Several publications have been reviewed with regards to summerhomework and summer learning loss (Roman and Fiore, 2010). The recentreport includes text review on summer learning programs and learningloss, as well as the learning programs provided by privateinstitutions in theUnited States. This study reveals that studentswho continue learning over summer gain more knowledge and skill overthose who idle during summer, who lose the same amount of knowledgeand skills. Scholars have suggested three approaches for reducinglearning loss since summer homework receives controversialperceptions (McCombs et al. 2011). They include extended school yearand a modified school calendar to shorten the long In conclusion,while summer learning programs are movements in the right directionto reducing learning loss, they cannot entirely bridge theachievement gap (Ozier, 2010). A complete bridge necessitates asystematic approach that can be sustained over time to connectfamilies, communities, school districts, as well as legislatorsconcerned with the academic, economic needs and socio-emotional needsof families and children to bridge the achievement gap that has beenrooted in the education sector for decades (McCombs et al. 2013).
In conclusion, while summer learning programs are movements in theright direction to reducing learning loss, they cannot entirelybridge the achievement gap (Ozier, 2010). A complete bridgenecessitates a systematic approach that can be sustained over time toconnect families, communities, school districts, as well aslegislators concerned with the academic, economic needs andsocio-emotional needs of families and children to bridge theachievement gap that has been rooted in the education sector fordecades (McCombs et al. 2013).
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