Holyoke organization helping slow the summer learning slide for students

Summer is full of slides, but we aren’t talking about the playground or the pool. It’s the backslide in learning many students experience when not in school.
Published: Aug. 21, 2023 at 1:58 PM EDT
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HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Summer is full of slides, but we aren’t talking about the playground or the pool. It’s the backslide in learning many students experience when not in the classroom.

“I’m very…the people say that I’m passionate for this job, maybe as a teacher, but no, no, no. It’s the need that you see in those kids and if people don’t put in that passion, there won’t be any changes. Homework House, we are very motivated to do that,” said Minevra Rivera, education coordinator at Homework House.

While kids are out for the summer, Rivera and Jessica Booth aim at bridging the learning gap from June to August.

“Homework House…we recognize that there is that summer learning loss and that was one of the reasons that the summer readers and leaders program came about,” Booth explained.

‘Summer Reader and Leaders’ is a free learning program for students in Holyoke, aimed at preventing learning loss over the summer months. Westfield Public Schools’ Christine Shea and Susan Dargie, both experienced educators, have seen it in the classroom those first few weeks back.

“The first week is a lot of getting to know each other, getting to know the teachers, the teachers getting to know the students…There are some quick dip-sticks, so you know, what do they have for reading and for math skills and things like that,” Shea said.

Tests that help them gauge where their students are after a three-month classroom vacation. They point to several lapses…

“Things like math skills, math facts, words, bigger vocabulary words, things that they were learning in the last weeks of school that hadn’t really sunken in all the way,” Shea noted.

According to a recent study by the American Education Research Journal, the average student loses 17 to 34 percent of the previous school year’s knowledge over summer break. That equates to one month of learning in the classroom, according to SAGE Journals. Westfield school system employees told Western Mass News that the biggest differences are behavioral

“There may be some learning loss, but it’s really about getting kids back into the swing of routines,” Shea explained

Sometimes, it doesn’t take reteaching, just reminding.

“While we do see that some skills are lagging at first, it’s not that some students are lagging or necessarily forgotten what they’ve learned, they just haven’t used it,” Dargie said.

That’s why programs like the Homework’s Houses ‘Summer Readers and Leaders’ comes in. Many argue that summer vacation is a well-deserved break from the constant learning during the other nine months. Rivera told Western Mass News about data she tracks in student assessments over the five-week program.

“If the kid is absent, there’s going to be some gaps. According to the data we have, we’ve noticed that the ones being here. Those are the ones that benefit,” Rivera said.

However, how do you get students excited about picking up a book in July?

“We have a lot of supportive activities and themes that go along with a lot of the readings that are in the mornings, so it makes this a funner, lighter time than the traditional classroom because we have all of these supportive activities that happen,” Rivera added.

Homework House has done their homework to keep kids engaged. Thanks to field trips and a relaxed learning environment, the day camp is a happy medium for students to still enjoy the summer months.

“It makes it really fun and pulls it altogether, to really make the kids happy and excited to be reading and learning in the classroom over the summer,” Booth said.

Although the summer program is finished, Homework House offers a free after-school supplemental learning program as well.