VERIFY: Does Summer Brain Drain Exist In Kids And Who's Most At Risk?

VERIFY: Does Summer Brain Drain Exist?

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- For years we've heard the claim that kids lose what they've learned during the school year, over the two month summer break.  You've probably heard it referred to as summer learning loss or summer slide.

 
It's the tendency for students, especially struggling readers to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year.
 
Some research suggests, only low income kids are at risk for summer learning loss.  While others say, it's a gamble for every student.  So what's the truth?
 
We went straight to the kids to verify this one, starting with 11-year-old Lincoln Crosby.  When most kids trade in their books for TV, this all-star reader, digs his head into new adventures, keeping him on course for the start of 6th grade.
 
"No one is ready to go back to school, but academically I feel that I am.  I feel like I'm more ahead," said Crosby.  His mom Sherry has heard of summer brain drain.
 
"Summertime slide for him is not an option because we want him to be ahead when he gets back to school," she added.
 
And she's not the only one.  A quick search pulls up articles about this topic pointing you to all different findings.  So, what's the truth?  Does summer brain drain happen in kids?
 
To Verify, we spoke with Stephanie Rakes, the Literacy Supervisor for Guilford County Schools.
 
"Yes, they lose some of the knowledge and the skills that they acquire during the school year," said Rakes.  "We have over a hundred years of research that shows that although it begins at the elementary levels it compounds over the course of the student's school history."
 
Rakes points to a study by Johns Hopkins University that says most youth lose about two months of grade level equivalency in reading and math skills over the summer months.  It also says low-income youth lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains.   (Cooper, Nye, Charlton, & Greathouse, 1996)
 
And that can have a longer impact.
 
"As they lose that little bit each year and its compounded the result is that students may not perform as well in their classes as we would expect them to, which could ultimately impact their GPA, could impact their opportunity for college and or scholarships," said Rakes. 
 
So, what about the claim summer slide has more to do with income, than ability?  Rakes says it comes down to accessibility.
 
"Students in Middle class families often are exposed to experiences, trips, museums, camps that have a fee attached to them, they may see some gains over the summer where students in low income families may not."
 
So we can verify the dreaded summer brain drain really is a thing, especially if kids aren't engaged.
 

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