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On the last day of classes at Kathryn Winn Primary School, a couple of students asked Principal Gerda Wise if they could make the last ann-ouncement—with a slight change. Instead of Wise’s usual closing, which encourages students to “read, read, read, all night long,” the students charged their classmates to “play, play, play, all summer long.”
“Playing all summer is still an opportunity to learn all summer, as long as the children’s minds are active and engaged,” Wise said. “The problem is when children get bored and sit in front of the TV or computer all day long.”
Wise is encouraging parents to keep their children busy in the summer to avoid a phenomenon that researchers from as early as 1906 have since identified and labeled as “summer slide,” the phenomenon of student achievement actually falling back over the summer. Key findings of the research show that the accumulated loss of learning over the summer has a significant impact on reading and math achievement, dropout rates and college attendance, among other effects.
“Every child is susceptible to summer slide,” Wise said, “but if children read for pleasure, take advantage of learning opportunities in the community and at home, they can actually have a ‘summer spike’ rather than a ‘summer slide.’”
One of those opportunities is for students at Winn to begin working on their new learning standards from home or the public library through several different computer programs on the school’s website.
Wise said that a program called “Odyssey,” which is part of the Carroll County School District’s Compass Learning Program, will “walk students through” different lessons in math and reading, based on the children’s latest Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) scores. She said that the lessons are different for every child and are tailor-made for him or her, based on the skills and knowledge the student already possesses.
“We have brand new standards set up for each child, and they can get started on them now,” Wise said. “Every child needs to meet all of the same standards, but they don’t learn at the same pace or in the same order, so we have systems set up to take children where they are and move them forward.”
As an incentive and reward for students continuing their learning over the summer, Wise has announced that children who spend eight hours on the Odyssey program over the summer will receive a snow cone when school starts back in the fall.
“One hour on the computer each week is reasonable,” Wise said, “just enough to keep their minds sharp in the academic areas.”
Wise emphasized, though, that summertime should be filled with activities that create life-long memories.
“We hope the children will take walks with their parents, observe nature, work in the garden, just take time to have conversations with their parents and loved ones,” Wise said. “When learning is fun, it seems like play.”
Students can access Odyssey and other learning programs on the Carroll County School District website from the “Carroll County Links” tab: http://internal.carroll.kyschools.us/CCSLinks/CCS_Links_Home.html.
Jeff Fremin is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.