This summer, Emmaus House set out to help students to avoid the "summer slide" in reading ability by hosting a Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program.
Pre and post evaluations conducted with a sample of scholars, using procedures recommended by the Freedom Schools® program, indicated the following:
- 100% of scholars who were evaluated maintained or gained in their instructional reading level over the six-week program as measured by pre and post standardized testing.
- Of those, 79% of students tested improved their instructional level in reading.
- Students who maintained their reading level all showed gains in either accuracy, comprehension or fluency within that reading level.
- Children in grades 4-7 saw the greatest gains.
Rosalyn Devine, a reading specialist who sits on the Emmaus House Advisory Board, wrote the following about the summer slide and the impact of our program:
Many of us have fond memories of the summer months. These may include visits to the beach or the mountains, special time with family and friends, lazy days and nights and a needed break from the demands of the school year. What we don’t necessarily remember is the “summer slide.” Unfortunately, I am not referring to the slide at the park that we all enjoy, but instead the well-documented decline in academic progress that occurs for many children during this extended break from the traditional school environment. Here are some facts about the summer slide:
- Low-income students, like those served by Emmaus House, lose on average more than two months of reading achievement during the summer months (Cooper, 1996).
- Unequal access to summer learning accounts for more than half of the achievement gap between lower and higher income youth. Researchers have concluded that two-thirds of the 9th grade reading achievement gap is attributable to unequal access to summer learning opportunities during elementary school. (Alexander et al, 2007).
- The summer learning losses appear to be cumulative over time, contributing even more to the gap between low and higher-income students (RAND Corporation, McCombs et al, 2011).
- Speaking on behalf of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading at a U.S. Department of Education event, Annie E. Casey Foundation executive vice president Ralph Smith (2011) summed up the urgency of the summer learning loss problem:
“Too many children are losing too much ground over summer vacation, especially low-income children… This is not a school problem; this is a community problem, and we've got to organize ourselves to solve that.”
The good news is that studies have found that summer programs for kids can help reduce or eliminate the gaps, and that the effects of these summer programs last over time. This summer, children at Emmaus House have found what they need through the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program. For six weeks, children at Emmaus House have worked to curb the summer slide and close achievement gaps. The CDF Freedom Schools® program motivates students to read, generates positive attitudes toward learning, and increases self-esteem. It also creates opportunities for partnerships with families and children to help them connect to resources in their communities.
As a reading specialist and member of the Advisory Board at Emmaus House, I have been fortunate to assist with this program by assessing the progress in reading that these students have made. I am happy to report that all students assessed have maintained or gained in their instructional reading level this summer because of the Freedom Schools® program at Emmaus House. This is something to celebrate as we work together to stop the summer slide.
– Rosalyn Devine