Fighting the Summer Brain Drain

Posted on June 15, 2014 by      Comments 0

Children and teens love school breaks—especially the long, lazy days of summer. Most love just chilling out—watching television, playing games, and generally avoiding any type of academic activity. But this break comes with an academic price tag known as the “summer brain drain.”

Over one hundred years of academic research has taught us one thing about the retention of knowledge: It fades away. In fact, students who take achievement tests at the beginning of the school year generally score at least a month behind on the same test they took at the end of the previous school year (Cooper, 1996). This loss of knowledge tends to especially affect factual and procedural learning, such as math facts and spelling skills. The old adage “If you don’t use it, you lose it” applies to children as well as adults.

Some schools offer year-round instruction to help stem this “brain drain,” but even then, some knowledge is lost during the breaks between sessions. For traditional school students, the gaps are even wider. Teachers are often forced to waste valuable class time in needless review because students have lost what they had already gained.

One of the best ways to combat this “brain drain” is to provide your child with significant learning opportunities even when school is out of session.  In fact, access to summer learning program accounts for approximately two-thirds of the statistical achievement gap between students of a lower economic class and those with families who have greater economic resources (“Fifteen”). This gap often leads to higher dropout rates and lessens the chance for higher education opportunities for those denied summer learning enrichment.

But the type of summer learning program is important as well. After extensive research into summer learning programs, educational researcher Harris Cooper reported, “Results revealed that summer programs focusing on remedial, accelerated, or enriched learning had a positive impact on the knowledge and skills of participants…. Remedial programs had larger effects when the program was relatively small and when instruction was individualized. “

That is why we, at A Plus Tutor USA, take the approach that we do. Our teacher/student ratio is low and our learning programs are individualized to each student’s specific needs. We understand that school breaks need to involve both fun activities and academic exercise. In this way, the normal school routine is avoided, while real learning continues.

Summer break can be a time of fun and adventure. However, it needs to be a time of academic growth as well. This summer, consider including learning as part of the summer adventure and plug the summer brain drain before it occurs.

Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S. (1996). The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review. REVIEW OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, 66(3), 227-268. EJ 596 384.

Cooper, H. (2007) “Summer Learning Loss: The Problem and Some Solutions”.

“Fifteen Critical Facts Everyone Should Know About Summer Learning Loss.” May.12, 2012.

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