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Summer learning is essential for California students
July 02, 2013, 05:00 AM By Anne Campbell and Shelly Masur
The traditional school year is over, and the all-important summer learning season is in session. Now is the time for San Mateo County parents, educators and civic leaders to make sure our students have access to high quality summer learning opportunities in the coming months.

With more than a century of research documenting the epidemic of “summer learning loss” — a loss in academic skills and knowledge during the summer months that sets students back — there is now new research in California that shows California is leading the way on summer learning solutions.

“Summer Matters: How Summer Learning Strengthens Students’ Success” is the first-ever study in California that examines the extent to which students benefit from attending high quality, educationally, socially and physically enriching summer learning programs.

Its findings show that students taking part in high quality summer learning programs improve their social and academic skills, work habits and attitudes, and overall readiness to learn — and they substantially retain what they learn during the summer throughout the regular school year.

Specifically, students who participated in these summer learning programs:

• Improved their grade-level vocabulary skills;

• Boosted their confidence and interest in reading;

• Improved their reading ability and attitude toward reading;

• Enhanced the effectiveness of their academic work attitudes, habits and abilities;

• Increased their overall interest in school and readiness to learn;

• Enhanced their social skills and relationships with educators and fellow students, and strengthened their ability to make new friends and get along with other children; and

• Made a smoother transition from elementary to middle school.

This is good news for school districts across California and all around United States because it shines a bright light on the essential role of high-quality summer learning programs — those that combine enrichment, recreation and academics — in supporting students’ educational success.

It also reinforces the fact that students need high quality learning year-round to thrive and that students benefit enormously from new experiences and opportunities — such as field trips and community service projects — that they do not have during the school year.

Moreover, the research spotlights models of successful high quality summer learning programs that other school districts can and should emulate. How? By being intentional about hiring and training talented program staff and visionary leaders who can secure the resources and partnerships necessary to ensure high-quality programming, and teaming up with community-based organizations like parks, libraries, recreation centers and museums, that can provide engaging and educational programming that will help students thrive.

School districts and cities statewide and nationwide can and should invest wisely in summer learning and work collaboratively and creatively through public-private-nonprofit partnerships to ensure that their students receive the high quality summer learning opportunities they need to succeed in school and life and that summer serves as a time to change students’ lives for the better.

In San Mateo County, we are proud to be part of California's statewide Summer Matters campaign and are doing our part to advance summer learning by identifying summer learning and inspiring summers as a critical component of ensuring all students read at grade level by third grade. With exceptional summer programming occurring at county libraries, in school districts across the county and at community-based organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs and the YMCA, our children are learning and having fun. We have signed on as supporters of the Summer Matters campaign and are committed to increasing access to summer programming in San Mateo County.

We have bright spots of inspiring summers in this county that offer a safe nurturing place for kids, but the there is more work to be done. Not all children are able to attend summer programs, in large part because of funding. Some programs report waiting lists of more than 100 children. So the next step is to work on making it possible for more kids to be a part of these inspiring summers. When we do this as a county, we make it possible for our kids to keep progressing over the summer. Which ultimately prepares them for high school graduation, college and career. Something from which we all benefit.

Anne Campbell is the San Mateo County superintendent of schools and Shelly Masur is the president of the Redwood City Elementary School Board of Trustees.

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