Combating summer learning loss, resources to catch up
Jasmine Smith working with her children as they do school work. Photo by Aswad Walker.

Summer learning loss has been a concern and topic of discussion for public school systems for decades. COVID-19 further prolonged the issue with school closures, the pivot to virtual learning and the disruption of normalcy for millions of K-12 students.

Public schools have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic lockdown establishing proper methods of safe return to in-person learning on school grounds. Children were already behind academically pre-COVID during summer months, but during the pandemic, playing catch-up has proven troubling for educators.

Schools are facing high rates of serious staff shortages, mental health challenges of teachers and students and lost instructional time to name a few issues. This has had a severe impact on children in low-income communities.

According to data collected by McKinsey & Company, the average student in American K-12 schools is five months behind in math and four months behind in reading. Students at majority-Black schools have fallen six months behind in math and five months behind in reading compared to students at majority-white schools.

“I think our focus needs to be placed on the social and emotional wellness and support of our educators and students in order to help them achieve academic success,” said Jackie Anderson, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers (HTF).

“We [HTF] received a grant through the American Federation of Teachers to help teachers with improving their mental health while teaching in the classroom. If you are not working at your best state of mind, it will ultimately impact your performance.”

Despite the statistics and concerns about the academic achievement gap of Black youth, there are resources parents and students can utilize to keep students academically engaged while having a fun time this summer.

“First, [parents can] establish a family reading habit. Each night, read together: picture books {even for older children], newspapers, magazines, poetry, comic books [now called graphic novels], chapter books. Compare popular books, such as ‘Jumanji,’ to the movie version. Discuss what you are reading,” said a LingoKids spokesperson.

“Adults can read aloud while the children are loading the dishwasher. Make chores more fun by adding reading! Your neighborhood librarian can help you get started and provide summer activities as well.”

LingoKids shares several activities and ideas, including:

Develop hobbies: Research shows that music, for example, can build memory muscle. One simple way to learn an instrument is by buying inexpensive recorders for everyone in the family. Look for keyboards for sale — used ones often can be found. There are instructional videos online for almost everything, including recorders and keyboards.

Get outdoors: Plan for hikes, walks and trips to the playground. Start a leaf or flower collection, learning their names. Keep a journal of your findings. Almost everyone has a phone or camera. Keep a virtual journal of your adventures.

Cook together: Make it a family activity to prepare a meal two to three times a week. Assign tasks for every member of the family. Discuss measurements and deepen math skills while assembling the ingredients.

Become armchair travelers: If you can’t afford a summer vacation, choose a fascinating area to study each month: Pompeii, the Badlands, Mayan ruins, Rome and its history.

Resources:

Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston

Houston area writing camps

United Way M.A.T.H program

Lingokid

Hype Freedom School

Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...