Center for Youth Voice in Practice and Policy @ WKCD

“One thing I always told myself was that I don’t have to be the tail.  I got to be the head. I know that education is power.””

                                                                                                                                                                                                          - Seattle, WA high school junior


Best Practices in Summer Learning: A Y-Press Report


According to a 20-year study done at Johns Hopkins University, and cited in a recent Time magazine cover story about summer learning loss, ‘low-income elementary school students lost ground in reading each summer, compared with their higher-income peers, who made progress.”                                                   

Even more disheartening, the study shows that “by the end of grammar school, low-income students had fallen nearly three grade levels behind, and summer was the biggest culprit.” The challenge, the Johns Hopkins researchers conclude, is to make the summer a time of learning for low-income students “without destroying what’s best about the season: the possibility of fun and freedom and play.”

In the summer of 2010, Y-Press alumna Jordan Denari and young journalists from this Indianapolis youth-led news bureau turned their investigatory lens on summer learning loss and best practices in summer learning.

They spoke with experts nationwide. They reviewed the research literature. And then they cast a broad net for students nationwide whom they could interview about their summer learning experiences.

The Y-Press journalists found that only quality programs will stop summer

learning loss. “If you provide a high-quality, comprehensive, six-week summer learning program to kids, there’s solid research evidence that shows that not only will those kids not experience loss, but they’ll actually experience a gain in reading and math performance,” one national expert told them.

They learned the ideal program has both recreational and academic components. The teens they interviewed about summer learning underscored that the most comprehensive programs are typically full-day and filled with a lots of activities. There is an academic focus, but it is organized around themes.

Brienne Colston, 17, of the Bronx, went to a summer program that allowed her to explore a subject that was not on her school’s curriculum: how power is used in government and society. Her six weeks with the Sadie Nash Leadership Institute—a nonprofit that focuses on helping young women see their leadership potential through coursework, mentoring and service—were transformative. “After I completed the program, I felt so enlightened, so much smarter,” she told her Y-Press interviewer.

The Indianapolis-based Y-Press has nurtured young journalists for more than 20 years. Their stories and articles—on local, national, and global topics—appear weekly in The Indianapolis Star  (348,000 circulation). WKCD has a longstanding relationship with Y-Press and supported this investigation into summer learning.

Article by Y-Press reportersSummer_Learning_files/Best%20Practices%20in%20Summer%20Learning_Y-Press%20Report.PDF
Interviews with teens nationwide about their summer learning experiencesSummer_Learning_Audio.html

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Brienne Colston, 17, Bronx, NY