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OR Kids: Out of School, but Still Learning

June 5, 2008

Salem, OR - Just because the school year is ending for Oregon kids doesn't mean that learning has to stop too. In fact, research shows that summer boredom and "brain drain" can cost students at least two months of math and reading skills if they don't get regular practice.

Many Oregon schools and libraries offer low-cost or free programs during the summer that still give kids plenty of time to relax, while keeping up their skills. Gail Rasmussen, vice-president of the Oregon Education Association says that by fall, teachers can tell who's stayed on task - and who hasn't.

"Teachers see that students, especially in the lower grades, who have participated in these kinds of programs, are typically more in tune with moving on in the schoolwork as opposed to needing some remedial catch-up."

Ron Fairchild, director of the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University, says the differences are more dramatic for poor children, whose families can't afford summer camps and enrichment activities.

"Low-income kids typically fall behind by close to three months in reading performance, each and every summer of their elementary school years. So, while middle and upper-income kids typically experience slight gains over the summer, young people in high-poverty communities face huge risks of setbacks in reading performance"

According to Fairchild, summer programs have not been a federal priority, but a bill in Congress, called the "Step Up Act," would fund summer learning scholarships. Without such opportunities, he adds, too many kids don't get a good enough workout, for their bodies or their brains, when they're out of school.

More information on the Center for Summer Learning is available online at
www.summerlearning.org. In addition, the Oregon Education Association provides a list of contact information for reading and summer food programs around the state on its Web site, at www.oregoned.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR