Celebrating the Spring Holidays

Summer Vacation from School Can Erase Half a Year’s Worth of Learning | Karim Abouelnaga

Summer Vacation from School Can Erase Half a Year’s Worth of Learning | Karim Abouelnaga

The summer learning loss is a term that they
use to describe the regressions that kids in low-income neighborhoods face relative
to their affluent peers. So they say in lower income neighborhoods
kids forget anywhere from two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half months of what they learned
during the school year over the summer, while their middle-class peers break even or even
make gains. When I first learned about the achievement
gap I was a freshman in college and I wanted to understand what the causes of it were. And as I started to do my research I realized
that there were a thousand different reasons why the achievement gap existed: everything
from a lack of positive role models to poor health conditions in so many of these inner-city
and low-income neighborhoods. And then I found this startling statistic
that said that two-thirds of the achievement gap could be directly attributed to unequal
summer learning opportunities, or the summer learning loss. In low-income neighborhoods, kids forget anywhere
from two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half months of what they learn over the summer from the
school year, and so when they return to school they’re now two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half
months behind their affluent or their middle class peers. Just to put that in perspective for you all:
the school year from September to June is only ten months long. If a kid forgets two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half
months of what they learned, that’s almost 25 to 35 percent of their learning. Teachers have then reported that they spend
anywhere from a month-and-a-half to two months reteaching old material. So if you add that additional 20 percent you’re
talking about 50 percent of a kid’s learning. So we sit here and we ask ourselves, “Why
does an eighth grader only have a fourth grade reading level?” and the truth of the matter
is that theoretically speaking they’ve only been in school for half the time. When I first learned about the summer learning
loss I thought the obvious solution was summer school, right? If kids were in school over the summer then
they couldn’t be regressing, they couldn’t forget what they were learning. And then I learned really quickly that summer
school sucked; it was punishment for the kids and babysitting for the teachers. And I thought back to my own days when I was
in summer school, and I didn’t like it—and no one does. There’s such a negative stigma associated
with it. When I was 18 I actually brought together
a group of friends to start to alleviate some of the issues around summer schooling in general. I didn’t think learning had to be boring
and so we started to think about how we could rebrand school and make school more fun. Specifically, we thought about what we wanted
from school over the summer when we were kids. So we created a multigenerational near-peer
learning model that has sort of changed the way we interact with students and children
to change their learning over the course of the summer. So we recruit and we hire near-peer mentors,
kids who are just a few years older than the kids who we’re working with, to give them
a positive role model in their neighborhood. I used to think back to when I was a child. I didn’t do bad things because I wanted
to be a bad kid—I did it because the older kids were doing it. So many times the older kids are the ones
who are perceived as being cool, and kids are just looking for an opportunity to be
cool and fit in. We then paired them up with college students
who are aspiring educators, giving the near-peer mentors a new role model to look up to. I remember for me it wasn’t until my freshman
year of college that I built a relationship with a college-age student. No one in my family had gone to college before,
and so as you can imagine my college aspirations were stunted or limited because of that. And then obviously for our college students—they’re
looking for some meaningful professional development and growth as well, and so we hire teachers
from the schools that we work with who can act as role models and mentors to our college
students who one day want to be in the classroom and fill their shoes. And so this model where everyone is sort of
a participant but also a beneficiary creates this win-win-win situation for everyone, making
summer school a lot more fun and exciting. When we first started our work it was very
structured. We sort of said: this is what a six week program
looks like in a low-income neighborhood or community. We quickly realized that no two schools are
the same, and it’s funny—we’re primarily based in New York City and as you think about
like schools and school districts in that area there’s about 1.1 million kids and
there’s 1,700 schools. And so schools are co-located within the same
building. And so schools are oftentimes serving the
same exact population of kids with the same per-pupil spend or the same amount of funding,
yet they have very different cultures, and they lead to very different outcomes. And so one approach in one school may not
work as an approach at a very different school. So I think one: we need to stay away from
these overarching generalizations about “what’s good for one is good for all”, because that’s
no longer the case. As it relates to summer specifically I don’t
think we need to get rid of the summer gap. I think there’s an opportunity to do something
meaningful and different. I always think back to our own programs and
what we do and I recognize that, if we didn’t come in there with a completely different
approach to learning over the summer, that learning or extending the school year in that
case actually may not make that much of a difference. You may not have regressions but that doesn’t
mean you’re going to improve student engagement or help kids catch up. And so I think the summertime is also an opportunity
to help kids catch up to their other peers who may have retained everything that they
needed to learn for the school year and probably won’t have a hard time continuing to be
independent learners. We know the status in so many of our low-income
neighborhoods, where they’re being raised in single parent households or immigrant households—like
in my own household, my mother not once picked up a book and said, “Hey, you should be
reading this book, because it’s grade-level appropriate” or “Challenge yourself by
doing this.” And I think some of it is that just she just
didn’t know. And so being conscious of the fact that there
are certain disadvantages that kids of color or minorities exhibit or deal with—things
that their more affluent peers just sort of don’t have to face—does create an opportunity
for them over the summer. I don’t think the solution is to close the
summer gap all together. But I do think there are opportunities to
maybe narrow it a slight bit. I know there are some states and some cities
that have summer breaks that are as long as 14 weeks, which is way too long. I think a meaningful summer break is six to
seven weeks. Even with our programs, our interventions
now are anywhere from four to six weeks long and kids still have three to four weeks off.

Reader Comments

  1. all of the shit they teach in school is absolutely useless in being happy, which is all everybody really wants, they dont teach you anything about reality just jobs and how to stay busy 8 hours a fucking day doing nothing

  2. stupid people have stupid kids.
    stupid people make less money.

    much like fat people have fat kids because they pass on their bad overeating habits and lazyness.
    then they blame it on genetics because its easier ….proving lazyness and locking their kids mind frame into "im made this way i cant change"

  3. I would have been much better off with year round schooling and parents who took an interest in my education instead of just bitching at me when report cards came out.

  4. Introducing the SJW Think. I remember when this was a good Atheist channel with forward thinking ideas and not a haven for ANTIFA.

  5. Nah… Public schools just suck, and the teachers that care can't do anything because of state mandates. Children aren't even learning anymore. I had to teach my 6 year old how to do math, and he's been in school since he was 3. Schools at least in Florida, make students sit on computers and answer multiple choice questions all day, and the kids just guess on them until it's done; Then the teacher asks us why they are failing the tests on the programs they are using… He goes to a year round school; his teacher has been working at this school for 9 years and she said it just gets worse every year, that the students are falling more and more behind. So I don't buy into the data that a 2 1/2 month vacation is to blame at all. Children hate school, children want to play and be kids. Humans have a selective memory, if a person doesn't care about any of the material you are trying to force feed them they won't commit it to memory. Until we stop telling teachers how to do their jobs we will fall even further behind.

  6. I forgot what I learned a few days after the exams because it was way too much facts to remember by heart.

    Why would I need to learn 5 different books by 7 different authors AND each year they were written plus the plot during the renaissance? And that would repeat itself for each area through history as history class went on. Do they really think I'm going to remember or need that information? I can look it up when I need it. It would be better with a few of the most important ones, then maybe I would at least have remembered them today.

    Students need to rest, otherwise information go in through one ear and out through the other when they're exhausted.

  7. this might be an issue if you actually learned anything useful in school. noone gives a fuck about what an isosceles triangle is, or how much mass a proton has. they should be teaching kids how to fill out job applications, how to fill out tax forms, how to fact check claims made on the internet, etc. all public school is right now is a system to teach kids to obey orders, to not challenge authority, and to funnel kids into expensive colleges.

  8. So many people get upset I dont agree with this, but he brings good points. Idiots can't even look at information or different opinions

  9. Let's do a little bit of compare and contrasting the American educational system with other countries Educational Systems you know one that actually rank high for their citizens

  10. If it were up to me: Summer vaca would only be 2 weeks and give Friday off during regular schoolweeks. Teachers wouldn't have to rush as much, students get a little more breathing room during the standard week.

  11. I learned more about survival in the real world that during my summer vacations like getting a job paying bills and managing my money than I ever learned at school

  12. Last I checked you had bullies running classes and they called them teachers maybe that has something to do with the lack of Education in the schools

  13. Hmm.. very interesting.. but like so many things I suspect this would only be a small part of the solution.

  14. something does sit right with me regarding this explanation. far too simplistic. but i like his solutions. Better role models – and i mean real role models, not celebrities or athletes – go a long way towards motivating children to reach higher.

  15. We can't fix public education until we accept that in its current state its socialized daycare, wether or not your for socialism isn't the issue. Burn down the house and start over.  Whats is education and what is the most effective way to distribute it?

  16. School is a joke. Kids should go to school to play sports and video games. That right there is extremely healthy for the mind and body. Its fun, because its what the body needs.

  17. 50% you say? Well, seeing as something like 99% of what people "learn" in school is little more than political indoctrination, I'd say its a good start.

  18. The only thing i learned in school was how to take a shit in less then 5 minutes because if you took any longer you got detention or iss.

  19. Holy God it´s always the same fucking routine: People notice that school is not working like expected and start thinking what to do about it (good!) And then some idiot comes up with the fabulous idea to just shove MORE OF THE SAME down the childrens throats. (very bad!) And everybody claps and goes "wohoo, yeah, if children forget what they learned in school when they´re out we just never let them out of school. That`ll solve it!" And this has been going on for ages! Yes, Mr. Abouelnaga, your idea is not new. It´s just the slightly altered bullshit people have been saying forever. "More school, earlier school, more homework, more exams, less "useless" free time…." and it has never made anything better. Just worse. When will people like you finally get that if SCHOOL doesn´t work, MORE SCHOOL will not fucking change that fact! It´s like Einstein´s definition of insanity: If you do the same thing in the same way over and over again and expect the result to change you are insane. Of course kids forget what they learned in school because it´s fucking useless to them! Of course kids hate (summer)school because it takes away from their time to learn survival skills and forces them to ingest and spill out information that is of no value to them and that they don´t care about. The science is clear on this: Learning – not remembering for a test – real learning requires interest in the subject and FUN. That´s why children, if left alone, play! Without anyone ever needing to tell them to do that. Play is the best mechanism for learning ever invented and everyone has it built right into his/her brains circuitry. If you wanna change something about the educational situation change HOW school works, not HOW MUCH school works. Peace.

  20. Medical Student here: 
    Our entire K-12 education can be taught in 4 years. Public schools are a gigantic waste of time. Sitting in a chair and passively absorbing some bits of kind of useful material is the single worst way humans can learn. We need to shift to a problem based curriculum, where the students teach themselves the material through trial and error, with the teachers serving only as a guide.

  21. Sooooooo… We're saying that money = clever? 🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔
    No. No.no.no.no.no.no.no.…
    Clever = Money!
    As the speaker pointed out, his mother never picked up a book. That's cultural, not economic.

  22. The only aspect of American public education that is not working exactly as intended, is that sometimes a student will graduate, while retaining some ability to think critically and form convictions. I guess they can't reach every student.

  23. i forget things all the time. I'm also learning all the time. The reason people forget is because the information they learned isn't relevant to their lives or interesting so they get rid of it. school is the problem, not breaks or whatever. I got most of my education online because i was able to pick and choose the things I learned in chunks and not sit there and listen to shitty teachers telling me to turn to page 294 and look at question 26A.

  24. The only time I have learned something about life was during those wonderful summers when we were free. I can't even imagine enduring all those years without these sacred breaks.

  25. Come on. The solution can't be to be in school all the time.
    If poor kids forget their education as soon as they leave school, that's an indication that the regular education they get doesn't stick in the first place. What's gonna happen when they finish school?

  26. why is everyone thumbing down this video? this is an excellent video thanks for talking about younger people's education — graduated math major

  27. In Australia, we go to school for roughly 10 weeks are a term. Then 2 weeks off. Until the end of the year around Christmas where we get 6 weeks off. 7-10 weeks off depending if you are in year 10-12 or going to a snobby private school where they give you a month off between terms (pay for "better" education to get more time off)

  28. Elementary school should teach you the basic survival skills needed Basic math, reading, writing and basic computer skills. High school should teach life skills such as budgeting, filling out paperwork, social skills and some basic history. 2 years of service next in the military or some sort of conservation corps to teach work environment. Summer off during grade and high schools then fulltime for their service to teach them skills living outside the home.

  29. He is right, we should treat children like robots. Always efficient, always functioning. I don't get why everything must be as efficient as possible. We speak about children that we demand to work there arses of from a very young age. But than we complain about thair behavior.

  30. What happens is that for some reason people believe that once you learned something one time you has learned it forever. This is NOT how memory works.
    And, learning 7 subjects at the same time it's VERY INEFFICIENT. It's better learn one, master it and go to the next. This way you learn it much more faster and when you know something very good it takes a much longer time to forget it (see "the forgetting curve").

  31. All should go to summer school. The agriculture age of child labor is over and only education will provide even the chance of livelihood in the future against a competitive world market and the competition of the smart machines.

  32. it's a reality check, providing you the independence and time to confront what you intuit. School is too often counter intuitive; unless you're in a fabricated environment that only presents one concern for survival… for those who aren't actively isolated from sobering feelings and issues, i'd imagine that it becomes more apparent. Having grown up around "middle class values" and attending schools in the suburbs; i can corroborate that they are wholeheartedly hyperbolic while making a mockery of goodwill, generosity, respect and mindfulness.

    It's difficult to expect personalities to change, but the education system can address its redundant relationship with the internet and attempt to create one that brings stability to it. focusing on personal growths and interests.

    The idea of less fortunate students not having constant access to the internet, is by far the most discouraging thought. Because that's where a lot of the real learning is going on today, Unfortunately there is no guidance.. and motivation for information based learning is being handicapped/ held hostage.

  33. School lasts too long. US schooling last way way way too long. Kids in grades 1-4 should stay at max 3 hours in school. You're only teaching them to be robots with sit down and shut up attitude. School is mental torture for most kids. They learn very little and usefulness of what they learn is severely limited by how long school lasts. Extending it into the summer is pointless.

    Parents are the ones that should be educating their children more. Get them excited to learn about various things. School should be there only to supplement, because it cannot be the main source of knowledge. When school is viewed as the primary source of education and knowledge, schools all over the world are failing abysmally. Thankfully, like the state that should not be viewed as aa solution to most problems, school should not be viewed as primary source of knowledge. It is there to help guide you. Education at first is on the parents, and by the teen years, education is on the kid learning. If you don't have an interested teen, you don't have a good student anymore.

  34. Memorization is not learning. I never studied during summer I read multiple books and played, never had a problem with grades because i developed a method to memorize the worthless crap for the exams and tests. Things that I self-learned because I wanted to know I still remember, but most of things that I memorized for the tests are long gone.

  35. Or provide them with a job that uses the skills being taught to them. Give them a financial incentive just like they would expect later in life.
    This model is being used for a GED program in Seattle called learning center north.

  36. When people come from other countries, they are shocked at how dumb and undisciplined the American children are. The problem is that American parents don’t teach their kids respect and proper discipline. This puts an impossible strain on teachers as they are expected not to discipline the kids, but to make their lessons more fun and entertain the children instead. In China, you can hear a pin drop in a classroom of 60 children. They are ready for learning without any bullshit. My Chinese girlfriend got her Masters in America and she had to take a calculus class. She said it was so easy, she learned that stuff in 6th grade.

  37. What did I learn in school? Well, I knew how to read and write before I started school. I was no good at arithmetic until my grandmother taught me at home. I forgot almost all of the Spanish I learned. History went in one ear and out the other, until I started reading independently years after I graduated. We didn't have a driver's ed program. Gym sucked. I still haven't found a use for algebra. You know what? Shop class! I definitely use what I learned in shop class! Basically, my entire education could have been replaced with that one class.

  38. This is dumb. You want to know why education is failing? Schools have no money, teachers don't care and if they do, they're overworked and stressed and can't support their students. Students are depressed and sleep deprived and no one wants to even acknowledge it never mind solve it. They're also scared for their future – rarely has politics been such a heavy burden on the youth. Their are so many big issues to tackle and you wanna blame it on this BS?? Nope. Fuck that.
    And it's not just America, education systems in many countries are in dire need of a reform- trust me, I've experienced it first hand. Yet no one seems to be willing to put in the time or money to give the youth what they need. An education. A good one. A future.

  39. I am a life long learner. I hated learning in school. I do not blame the teachers. They have a lot on their plate. Smaller class size would help so kids could have individual attention. Now I learn for fun. Thanks

  40. memorizing != learning
    You will never forget what you have learned.
    If you don't remember something – you haven't learned it yet.

    And that's the problem we should focus on when we talk about schooling… not on the length of holidays.

  41. Low IQ kids are always going to do poorly in school despite the billions you spend, and all the postmodernist attempts to inhibit and suppress white Europeans and Asian.

  42. It is because schools dont inspire us the think that the information they teach us is important. If we dont like what we have been fed we can purge it from our memories. If you think the information is important you will retain it much better.

  43. I think it's just better to change the school system in general, instead of having to sacrifice one's summer for it. Kids; and well, people in general, actually need a break from school/work so they can use that time to focus on some other aspects of their life, like family and friends, and educating themselves on some things that isn't in the school curriculum. There are other things in life that are important, too…

  44. If you forget what you learn in school in 3 months, you’ll forget it all when you graduate and why do you then go to school at all? The school system is wrong, not the breaks.

  45. Hell no. Summer vacation is the period when the things I've learned during the past year crystallize. When I start in autumn I feel like I understand things I didn't understand before the vacation started.

  46. I always felt like as soon as I got back from summer vacation I forgot like everything, it was never as fresh, totally agree that when education get reformed this is a needed piece of the puzzle. I would have totally been down to instead of 3 months in one go just have like 6 extra 2 week breaks, you could fit all the same learning into a much shorter time frame

  47. By reading all these negative comments, it explains why America is ranked 17th overall in education and 2nd in ignorance. Oh well…

  48. " After 2 or 3 weeks, most songbirds are usually ready to leave the nest. Other birds, such as raptors, may stay in the nest for as long as 8 to 10 weeks. In contrast, precocial birds spend hardly any time in the nest and are often seen wandering in search of food alongside their parents only hours after hatching."

  49. Don't blame summer vacation. Blame the bullshit being taught and the noncommitted motherfuckers who are mainly millennial pedophiles that peddle the shit.

  50. Here's another trick to save time: every year, have the student grade its interest in each discipline, and adjust that particular student's hours putting more emphasis on the lowest-graded ones – and yes, the logistics of doing that are tenable

  51. It's called Year Round education, this shit was solved Decades ago, and you still get the same amount of break time. Why aren't you being clear about this?

    Ooooh that's right. You have no fucking clue as to what you're talking about.

  52. What? No, no, no! There are so many other countries where they study less than people in America yet they do better. Just update your education, stop shoving useless shit like Shakespeare in to the brains of the youth and they might become more motivated.

  53. I feel like the problem isn't so much that we have summer vacation – it's a necessary if not too short of a break from some really rigid and difficult scheduled we have heaped upon our students. The problem I see is that schools tend to focus more on cramming too much information in too short of a time, expecting students to "memorize" the things they teach as if it were every possible answer to a very complicated world. But our race still has a lot to learn about the world we exist within. And memorizing and learning are two completely separate things. Yet, the students that really learn are ultimately the curious ones. So rather than trying to spend more time cramming, I purpose that we aim to arm students with tools that will stimulate their curiosity, and enable them to keep exploring as if they were still students long after they have graduated.

  54. But WHY do they lose more than the middle class and affluent? is it the quality of education that is making it "not stick"?

  55. Poor people get way worse shit and way less opportunities in thousands of other areas.
    Talking about summer opportunity loss is like saying that people who starve to death are lack of Vitamin E

  56. If it was up to me….school breaks would be more evenly spread out throughout the year….for example every 4-6 weeks of school, you would get a week off

  57. Its because the education system is shit it mostly depends on memorising useless facts that will be forgotten quickly the school system puts endless stress on its student making it harder to learn and increasing bullying bad grades depression and anxiety if it wasn't for summer break it would be worse just look at finland 1 school system has longer breaks and no homework there grades are better than any other country so your wrong

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