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Summer Learning Loss – Remediation vs. Skill Maintenance, Part II

Summer Learning Loss – Remediation vs. Skill Maintenance, Part II 424 283 admin

This is part II of a series of blogs that addresses the differences in Skill Maintenance and Academic Remediation. To read part I, click here.

For this post, I will go into the research that has been conducted comparing skill maintenance and remediation programs.

There has been a lot of research on this subject, and it emphasizes an early focus on summer skill maintenance. Two-thirds of the achievement gap at 9th grade between students of varying socio-economic classes is the loss of academic knowledge over the summer. We know that all students, regardless of race, gender or IQ lose learning over the summer. We also know that mid- to upper-income students have more access to casual and formal learning activities over the summer. And we now know that the achievement gap reflects these differences.

Starting in Kindergarten, the ability of a student to begin the school year prepared with the academic determines much of the student’s progress throughout his education. A student who does not participate in summer learning activities over his elementary school years can be behind by over 18 months in mathematic skills and nearly two years in reading skills by 5th grade.

As mentioned in my first blog, remediation will always have a role for those students who have not mastered the necessary skills during the school year. But these programs should work cohesively with summer skill maintenance programs. As they progress together, the need for remediation will be reduced resulting in less costly programs and greater skill improvement.

I created ThinkStretch out of frustration of watching students work so hard to regain what they had lost and falling behind in the process as other students began learning material. Thoughtful, low-cost programming is available to ensure every student maintains their academic skills over the summer while enjoying the many benefits that summer brings.

Summer Learning Loss – Remediation vs. Skill Maintenance, Part I

Summer Learning Loss – Remediation vs. Skill Maintenance, Part I 424 283 admin

I founded ThinkStretch because the effects of summer learning loss were apparent. I saw first-hand students work hard all year only to lose learned skills over the summer. I was thrilled to see that, of late, summer learning loss has gained greater amounts of attention both in the school systems as well as in the press. Unfortunately, much of the discussion around summer learning loss and its negative effects on students fails to distinguish between academic remediation and maintenance over the summer.

Because of this, I’ve decided to write a blog post, broken into two parts, highlighting the differences between the two options, providing a better understanding of how skill maintenance programs can help to prevent the effects of summer learning loss.

In Part I, I will discuss the main differences between summer remediation programs and summer skill maintenance programs.

Summer skill maintenance programs focus on the practice of a broad set of academic skills in a non-traditional educational setting. Students use and practice mastered skills with the goal of returning to school confident and prepared to learn new material. Students absorb the message that “learning never stops” and dependence on academic remediation programs declines. Summer programs focused on skill maintenance offer a combination of academic and enrichment opportunities often offering a combination of indoor and outdoor activities and can be implemented strictly as a take-home program from schools.

Because summer remediation addresses gaps in student learning, they often have a restricted focus on a small set of academic skills, typically reading intervention and math. Remediation is a backward looking approach, focusing on those students who weren’t able to learn what was taught during the school year. Academic remediation needs are pervasive in low performing schools often characterized by high poverty levels, and students can find themselves needing remediation classes year after year. This can create a vicious cycle when not coupled with a skill maintenance approach.

Cycles of summer remediation that are not paired with skill maintenance in the intervening summers do not show sustained academic gains for students. Many schools offer intervention prior to 3rd grade, as our nation proliferates “3rd grade reading guarantees.” However, inexpensive, well implemented summer reading programs from Kindergarten to 3rd grade can stop the regression of nearly six months – or nearly 2/3 of a grade level – of reading skill loss.

As an education system – parents, schools and community – we need to focus on maintaining student skills over the summer, in addition to remediating skill losses. By maintaining school year skills every summer, the need for remediation due to predictable summer skill loss will be much lower and less costly. Remediation will always have a role for students who have not mastered skills during the school year, and the solutions to these issues are complex and focus on the classroom during the school year – not the summer.

Understanding the Benefits of Summer Learning

Understanding the Benefits of Summer Learning 424 283 admin

As ThinkStretch has continued an enthusiastic campaign championing the benefits of summer learning, we’ve found, through working with hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of students, that the summer slide can be difficult to overcome. Families, schedules and opportunities vary widely and a one-size fits all solution isn’t always possible. But we’ve also learned that summer learning can help improve a student’s school performance and retention of skills. And recently, the results of a study conducted by the Wallace Foundation align closely with what we’ve learned.

The National Summer Learning Project is a six year effort by the Wallace Foundation to quantify the benefits of two voluntary, consecutive summers of school district academic instruction and enrichment activities on low income students’ success in school. The first results of the six year study are now available and indicate a mix of positive and neutral results across math, reading and socio-emotional outcomes.

We’re excited to see that academic outcomes measured by the study showed positive impacts on mathematics scores for students. Previous studies have shown all students lose some math skills over the summer, and this study now reaffirms that summer learning programs help students retain math skills. Studies have also shown that only some students lose reading skills which might attribute to the neutral results for students’ reading outcomes.

We believe there is a large and influential role that family engagement plays in summer learning opportunities. Unfortunately, this study does not address the role of family engagement in a student’s academic success, though it does reinforce our finding that families are extremely willing to commit voluntary time to summer learning. While summer has proven to be a source of high anxiety for parents as they search for productive activities for their students, a unique opportunity is presented when summer activities are associated with their school district.

As the study progresses, it will be interesting to evaluate the level of summer learning occurring in the control group. The educational community has long recognized the positive role of summer learning in both reading and math. It is encouraged by schools, libraries and community groups, often with free book giveaways. ThinkStretch and other researchers have shown that free choice summer reading can be as effective as summer school at maintaining reading levels.

We commend the Wallace Foundation and the school districts of Boston, Dallas, Duval, Pittsburgh, and Rochester NY for the innovative efforts and rigorous study of the important issue of summer learning loss on low income students. As a strong supporter of summer learning opportunities for all students, we’re happy to see that the core foundations of our summer learning program are bolstered with the first results from the National Summer Learning Project. We look forward to following the ongoing research into best practices in the field of summer learning.

Welcome to the New!

Welcome to the New! 540 400 admin

We’d like to welcome you to our brand new site! We’ve made some big changes here, but our goal will always remain the same, end summer learning loss, engage students all year-round and instill a genuine passion for learning.

With the philosophy that “learning never stops”, we’ve made a few upgrades to better assist everyone that visits our site. So whether you’re a school administrator, teacher, homeschooler, parent or PTO member, you’ll be able to find exactly what you need.

Although we’ve made some major changes, you should still expect the same great content, fun and engaging activities and a summer learning program that will keep students actively learning throughout the summer.

So take a look around and let us know what you think!

2015 BrainFreeze Reading Challenge Winners

2015 BrainFreeze Reading Challenge Winners 540 400 admin

Congratulations to our 2015 Brain Freeze Challenge Winners! Three young readers have been randomly selected to win an iPod Touch, Kindle and iPod nano.

All winter break, these readers kept their brains warm and logged their reading minutes in the ThinkStretch BrainFreeze Reading Challenge. For every 20 minutes of reading they logged, they earned a raffle ticket into a prize drawing for an iPod Touch and a Kindle.

ThinkStretch Summer Reading Challenge Readers logged 31,551 minutes over winter break and earned a total of 1,433 raffle tickets.

Readers were also challenged to complete a BrainGain question about the books they were reading. Each BrainGain question earned a raffle ticket into a random drawing for an iPod nano.

This year’s BrainFreeze Reading Challenge winners are…

Abigail E., a 7th grader from MI wins the iPod Touch!

Meleane T., a 5th grader from AZ wins the Kindle!

And the BrainGain Question winner is …

Sydney B., a proud 7th grader from MI wins the iPod Nano!

Congratulations from all of us here at ThinkStretch!

The Professor

The Professor 268 201 admin

Kids love to be the expert! So, how to encourage kids to read? Appeal to their curiosity! For one of my sons, frogs dominated our lives for several years. Having a depth of knowledge gives kids confidence, encourages curiosity, and often leads to lots of other “unintended consequences”, like more time spent reading!

The Professor

  1. Choose a topic.
  2. Find 5 new facts from books.
  3. Find 5 new facts online.
  4. Amaze family and friends with the knowledge!

National Book Month – 2014

National Book Month – 2014 199 300 admin

Reading Tips for October – Celebrating National Book Month! Summer reading is behind us and the school routine is up and running.

Shifting from a summer of free time to a school year schedule can lead to less “free time” reading. Yet, while kids read at school, choosing to read just for fun is an important part of becoming a lifelong reader and learner. The 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress highlighted a troubling trend in reading for pleasure as children grow. In fourth-grade, 53% of girls and 39% of boys read for fun almost every day. But by eighth-grade, only 25% of girls and 13% of boys read for fun almost daily.

National Book Month is a great opportunity to try some fun reading activities at school and start some new reading habits in the home for the next 9 months of school.

At School:

  • Send letters to favorite authors about their books
  • Host a book swap
  • Wear pajamas to school for a cozy reading hour

At Home:

  • Play “20 Questions” with a twist – try to guess book titles
  • Set aside 20 minutes a day to read to a child or “partner read” (sit side by side reading together silently)
  • Make a visit to the library as a family


Stopping Summer Learning Loss is a Team Effort

Stopping Summer Learning Loss is a Team Effort 300 200 admin

Parents want to learn with their children.  They want to be able to answer homework questions, help their child read a difficult sentence or book, or share a new discovery.

Yet, for many parents, this is not an easy thing to do. They are not comfortable with the schoolwork or familiar with many of the easy tips and tricks that teachers use to help students build their skills. In reading in particular, parents have many opportunities to ask simple, repeatable questions that can improve their student’s reading and understanding of what they read.

A recent article in the New York Times highlighted the issue of parents’ supporting student learning over the summer. The positive experiences and outcomes highlighted in the article by engaging parents directly in maintaining literacy skills over the summer parallel the success ThinkStretch has had by including parents directly in the summer learning experience.

Back in 2009 as a parent at a Title I school, I developed the ThinkStretch summer learning program as a gift for my children’s entire school. As I built the content, I spoke with parents who told me “I need a Summer Learning book” to help them help their students. So I wrote the Parent Guide to Summer with plain spoken, parent language to help parents select books, talk about reading, and have fun reading and writing with their children. In addition, I built a Parent Education Night that spoke directly to parents about how to support their children over the summer.

And I learned something important as ThinkStretch spread across the country: parents want to help their students keep all the skills they have worked so hard to learn over the school year. Sometimes, we simply need to give parents tools and tips, in a personal, simple, straight forward format. Techniques that seem obvious to educators, may not be intuitive for busy, stressed and loving parents.

I commend the attention that the New York Times, Tina Rosenberg, and SpringBoard founder Alejandro Gac-Artigas are bringing to the issue of engaging parents in summer learning successes.

2014 Summer Reading Challenge Winners

2014 Summer Reading Challenge Winners 398 236 admin

Congratulations to our 2014 Summer Reading Challenge Winners!  Three young readers have been randomly selected to win an iPod Touch, Kindle and iPod nano.

All summer long, these readers logged their minutes in the ThinkStretch Summer Reading Challenge.  For every 20 minutes of reading they logged, they earned a raffle ticket into a prize drawing for an iPod Touch and a Kindle.

ThinkStretch Summer Reading Challenge Readers logged 112,367 minutes this summer and earned a total of 5,631 raffle tickets.

Readers were also challenged to complete a BrainGain question about the books they were reading.  Each BrainGain question earned a raffle ticket into a random drawing for an iPod nano.


This year’s Summer Reading Challenge winners are…

Jordan M. from NY wins the iPod Touch!

Gavin D. from MI wins the Kindle!

2014 Caldecott Winner

2014 Caldecott Winner 213 237 admin

Locomotive by Brian Floca is this year’s Caldecott Winner!  Awarded annually to the to artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children, this year’s 2014 Caldecott Winner should be at the top of your summer reading list.

Picture books are a marvel for adults and children alike, thrilling our imaginations like little else can.  Don’t worry about text, just let yourself melt into another time and place with Brian’s spectacular illustrations.

Take some time to check out the runner-ups to from your local library.


2014 Medal Winner

Locomotive by Brian Floca
Locomotive, illustrated by Brian Floca
All aboard! Accompany a family on an unforgettable weeklong train trip from Omaha to Sacramento in 1869. Brian Floca’s dramatic watercolor, ink, acrylic and gouache illustrations incorporate meticulously-researched portraits of the train, the travelers and the crew as they traverse the American landscape on the new transcontinental railroad.

2014 Honor Books

Journey by Aaron Becker
Journey, written and illustrated by Aaron Becker and published by Candlewick Press
Finding a magical red crayon, a bored and lonely girl draws a new door on her bedroom wall that leads her to a wondrous but perilous new world. Her drab, sepia-toned, humdrum reality gives way to sumptuous, lushly-hued watercolor and pen and ink landscapes.


Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
Flora and the Flamingo, written and illustrated by Molly Idle
The budding relationship between an awkward young girl and a graceful flamingo is revealed through carefully orchestrated flaps.


Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner
Mr. Wuffles! written and illustrated by David Wiesner
Mr. Wuffles finds a new toy that is actually a tiny spaceship in this nearly wordless science fiction tale of epic and miniature proportions.