Monday, June 1, 2009

Summer Camp Double Whammy

By Becky Reno, Senior Research Associate at the Kirwan Institute

Wendy Smooth’s blog entry last week on funding cuts to summer camps coincided with some research I was doing on the achievement gap. The data I uncovered suggested that the majority of the achievement gap can be accounted for by examining knowledge attrition over the summer. In short, learning gains during the academic year are quite comparable for low-income, urban populations of color and middle and upper-income, suburban white students. In the summer, however, researchers have discovered the emergence of a different pattern. While middle-class populations improve academically during summer break, low-income students actually lose knowledge, and their achievement levels drop.

When trying to parse out the source(s) of the achievement gap, our focus typically turns to the school. We hold a magnifying glass up to teachers and teacher quality, school resources, class size, tracking, discipline policies, etc. Of course all of these things matter, but as the effects of summer attrition accumulate, from early elementary to high school, these losses account for nearly two-thirds of the total achievement gap.

The funding cuts to summer camps and activities are more likely to harm low-income, urban populations of color, particularly as high poverty neighborhoods not only have fewer community resources, but children are also constrained in their outdoor activities because of safety concerns. In contrast, middle class communities have both an abundance of neighborhood resources, and parents who are more likely to have the funds to subsidize their children’s summer activities. These contrasting summer experiences are not only heartbreaking in and of themselves, but taken in conjunction with the achievement data, they are ultimately a huge source of academic and life-long disparities.

For more on the effects of summer break on the achievement gap see: Achievement Gaps: An Examination of Differences in Student achievement and Growth.

1 comment:

  1. Hello there! I am glad to stop by your site and know more about summer camps. Keep it up! This is a good read. I will be looking forward to visit your page again and for your other posts as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about summer camps in your area.
    Some camps, such as CTY and Duke TIP, are focused primarily on education or on educational-related activities, such as debate, history, or journalism. These camps are often run by colleges or universities, and are usually for children in junior or senior high school. Educational summer camps are different than summer schools as the summer camps often are not offered for school credit, and often have a significant focus on non-academic activities. Students for these programs are often invited or recruited. Many of these camps, such as Canada/USA Mathcamp and SSP, focus on a specific subject, such as mathematics or astronomy. These camps tend to have selective application processes involving problem solving or an essay about the applicant's interest in the subject.
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