The Importance of Summer Learning

Sen. Wyden's statement on summer learning for the Congressional Record.

Mr. President, I want to take a moment today to stress the importance of providing young people with safe places to learn during the summer months. Summer is in full swing and families are deciding how their children’s time will be spent while school is out. Unfortunately, not all families in America can afford enriching experiences like summer camps and summer tutors.

That gap between families who have resources and those that do not is expressed clearly in their children. Evidence shows that students who lack access to summer learning - informal or structured - start the school year behind. When many kids are having to review last year’s lessons, then all the kids have to spend that time reviewing last year’s lessons. This puts all our kids behind.

Simply put, the long summer break should not be a long break from learning!

With Oregon’s four-year high school graduation rate at an alarmingly low 74%, it is long past time we shine a spotlight on summer learning loss and its impact on our students’ path toward graduation. Summer learning loss has consequences that can damage a child’s long-term academic and career success. That’s especially important in my state where one in four teenagers doesn’t make it to graduation on time.

Research by the National Summer Learning Association shows that most students lose math and reading skills during summer break. And unfortunately, students from low-income families fare even worse. The sad truth is that most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math computation skills over the summer months, and low-income students lose an additional two months in reading achievement.

As parents, community leaders, educators and policymakers, we must provide every resource possible to bridge that gap for disadvantaged and low income students. I have long fought to close the achievement gap and support all students on a path toward high school graduation and beyond.

I know so many great education advocates in Oregon who share these goals, and I want to commend Oregon’s tremendous educators who work on this effort every single day. My good friends at Oregon Afterschool for Kids have made a strong commitment to keep kids learning all summer long. Their efforts to open up school libraries and school cafeterias in Woodburn, Salem, Eugene and around the state have truly made a difference in children’s lives by providing them with a safe and welcoming learning environment during the summer. I have often seen parents bring their children for a free lunch, and stay for the free books.

This year I hope to see even more communities come out and support our students by hosting summer learning activities. Even if you cannot attend events to serve lunch and read stories to classrooms full of children, remember that supporting summer learning is easy. Volunteering your time, or donating books or crayons to neighbors is another way to support young learners. More ideas can be found in the Summer Learning Tip Sheet for Parents provided by the National Summer Learning Association.

As I have traveled around my state having conversations in high school auditoriums and school gyms, I have heard so many good ideas on how to help students succeed in school. Oregonians agree that we must support all aspects of a student’s life to improve their outcomes, and I will add that this rings true all year long. I have seen firsthand that our communities are ready to come together and support students who need it. This is truly the Oregon way.

I am committed to helping more of our students get their high school diplomas and increase the rate at which our students are graduating from high school. Fighting summer learning loss is one way we can keep all students on a path toward a bright future.