July 18, 2018

National Summer Learning Day Prompts Letter On Efforts to Combat Summer Learning Loss

To the Editor:

Summer is the most unequal time in America!

Research tells us that ALL students lose ground over the summer months when they are not in school. While middle- and upper-income families can access top-notch enrichment programs, low-income families have few if any equivalent opportunities. So many of the resources available to them during the school year come to an abrupt halt during the summer months.

Thursday, July 12 was National Summer Learning Day, a national advocacy day for keeping kids safe, healthy, and learning every summer. According to the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), the achievement gap between children from high- vs. low-income families is roughly 30-40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born 25 years earlier. This “summer slide” is what frequently happens to low-income children during the summer months, putting them further behind higher-income children who have access to summer learning programs.

At the Princeton-Blairstown Center, we have worked to combat summer learning loss for 110 years. Each summer, 600 students, primarily from Trenton and Newark, travel to our 264-acre campus in Blairstown, New Jersey for our award-winning, week-long Summer Bridge Program. This academic enrichment and leadership development program is provided free of charge. Middle and high school students spend three hours a day engaged in hands-on literacy, STEM, and project-based learning; an hour and a half in waterfront activities such as swimming, canoeing, and kayaking; and three hours a day working on their social-emotional skills through ropes and challenge course activities that focus on leadership, team-building, communication, and problem-solving skills. At the end of the week, students make a final presentation to their peers and select a new or gently used book during our book fair to take home to ensure the learning continues back home. This year, we are proud to say our Summer Bridge Program is a finalist for the NSLA’s Excellence in Learning Award.

In honor of National Summer Learning Day, I urge everyone in our community to support evidence-based, high-quality summer programs like ours to reduce the summer learning loss for young people from low-income communities and help ensure they have an equal opportunity when they return to school in September.

Pam Gregory

President and CEO, Princeton-Blairstown Center