About this time of the year there is a lot of conversation about how much students will "slip" from spring to fall and how we start with a deficit in the fall and we have to make it up and…so on…and so on.
I have an opinion on "summer slip". Me? An opinion? I know you’re shocked.
When I work with schools who cite the skill slippage of summer as a force to be reckoned with, I ask them this question: Who is doing the slipping? The typical response is: the struggling students. And this is often blamed upon students "not reading over the summer".
I disagree with the fact that summer slippage comes from students "not reading over the summer". This places way too much importance on silent reading as a means for student achievement. As is abundantly clear in research and practical studies, students who achieve do so from a combination of excellent teaching and lots of highly structured practice. While reading independently a lot is often an attribute of a successful student, sometimes students who perform well really do not enjoy reading and rarely engage in it for fun and certainly not in the summer!
So what gives in the summer months?
First of all, we know who will slip during the summer: it’s typically the kids who are in our interventions before, during, between and after school. These are the kids on the watch list already. Why, then do we continue to bemoan the fact that they slip when we know that this will happen?
Second of all, if we know who these students are before the summer even begins, we must build our interventions in the late spring and early fall to be more powerful during these times to quickly account for likely skill slippage.
However, what I commonly see is that interventions become less intense as the year draws to an end. I also recognize that many interventions do not begin until at least a month into the school year.
So, in many cases, students are not just slipping during the two months of summer, they are slipping because their teaching has begun to lose power about a month before school ends (and often after high stakes testing as finished). And to add insult to injury, they are not getting powerful differentiated instruction until one month into the school year. When we add this all up, this is not just about the two months of summer, this is about missing instruction for FOUR MONTHS out of the year. I believe that THIS is the problem!
So, the question is, if we have control over what happens every day in the school year, then what are we willing to do to make sure that the powerful instruction continues to the very end and starts up at the very beginning?
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