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Experts Worry About “Summer Learning Loss”

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Aired 6/22/09

Summer school programs across San Diego County have been scaled back because of the state cuts to education. KPBS Reporter Ana Tintocalis says education advocates worry about the "summer learning loss" that will result.

Summer school programs across San Diego County have been scaled back because of the state cuts to education. KPBS Reporter Ana Tintocalis says education advocates worry about the "summer learning loss" that will result:

The "summer learning loss" is a term experts use when students lose their academic edge after the summer break. Maybe they're not as quick with converting fractions -- or maybe they take longer to read a book.

Education advocates say this year's "summer learning loss" could be even worse than in years past because summer school programs have been slashed.

Helen Mendell directs student teaching at the University of San Diego. She says elementary school kids are the most vulnerable.

“Young kids, especially, the gains they’ve made in reading and math, they slide back,” Mendell said. “So then there’s reviewing and re-teaching things. That's one of the reasons the year-round school movement started.”

School district officials agree, but say there's not much they can do. The state money to support summer schools are now being used to the plug district budget deficits.

In fact, most San Diego County school districts are only reserving summer school only for students who are behind academically.

San Diego Unified is perhaps the only district that has expanded its program because close to half of the district's student population -- about 60,000 -- is considered basic or below basic in reading and math.

The district's Chuck Morris says summer school is now considered an extension of the school year. He says kids who don't do well this summer risk being held back.

“You come in, take it seriously, do your work,” Morris said. “In many cases, its not only the students. Some teachers differ in terms of how they teach summer school. We're trying to make sure there’s quality control there that says our students are going to get the best they can get.

Morris says its part of making sure the district meets state and federal academic targets.

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