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Working to curb 'summer slide'

Schools and organizations want to keep kids learning

      Every kid's favorite time of year might be the most detrimental to their academic development, according to the National Summer Learning Association.
       A report the association recently released warned that after months of gaining skills and knowledge in the classroom, many students spend summer vacations falling behind.
       The organization's research indicates that some children lose as much as two months of grade-level equivalency in math and reading as a result of down time and not exercising their newly acquired abilities.
       "The summer is a critical link in making or breaking student achievement, yet we all too often fail to make the most of it," said Gary Huggins, the CEO of the National Summer Learning Association. "High-quality programs can curb the harmful effects of summer learning loss, and parents can make a real difference in encouraging their children to learn."
       In Bulloch County, schools and other organizations are conducting programs that they say ward off what education officials have dubbed "the summer slide."
       "It is an understood fact that summer loss does exist; however, in recent years, there has not been a systematic measurement in place to accurately document the loss," Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson said.
       Now, he said, school officials are looking at ways to determine what information, and how much, is being lost during June and July.
       "Wilson and Dr. Fran Stephens, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, are changing when the school system administers its Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Tests from the previous November/December timeframe to within the new school year's first few weeks," schools spokeswoman Hayley Greene said. "The test will also be given in the spring to determine if students are achieving at least one year's growth."
       MAP is a computer-based assessment tool that tests reading, language arts, math, science and concepts and processes for kindergarten through ninth-grade students. The tests assess what individual students know, and provide feedback within 48 hours to teachers and administrators. The Bulloch County Board of Education voted Thursday to renew a subscription to use MAP testing for $107,500.
       The knowledge of exactly where students are lacking should better arm schools to combat the summer brain drain, administrators say.
       Already, the school district has implemented programs aimed at maintaining and building education during summer months.
       "Bulloch County Schools regularly hosts a summer remediation program for students that were not successful on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test," Stephens said.
       And, 2012 was the first year of a three-year 21st Century Community Grant program awarded to Langston Chapel Middle and Langston Chapel Elementary to fund after-school programs during the school year. The grant also funded a series of weeklong camps for nearly 100 at-risk students this summer in first through third and sixth through eighth grades, Greene said.
       A learning option useful for all students can be found on the web.
       "Bulloch County Schools has made resources available that allow parents to use their home or public library computer as a virtual classroom," she said. "The school system has partnered with several educational software providers and textbook publishers to provide parents access at home to some of the same information used by teachers. Parents can use the Internet to provide additional skill practice in reading, math, and science."
       The Bulloch County Schools website, www.bulloch.k12.ga.us/resources, lists the resources available to students and parents.
       In addition to local school system efforts, the Statesboro Regional Library annually steps up to host several enrichment programs throughout the summer.
       The library's summer reading program is open to all children, and features guests lectures, prize drawings, story hours, special reading activities and more.
       Programs are designed to teach children that reading can be fun, said Elaine McDuffie, the library's youth and family services coordinator, and can prove a major deterrent to the summer slide.
       "Programs like these spotlight the fun you can have here for free and encourage families to visit the library together," she said. "The goal of the Summer Reading Program is to encourage everyone to read for pleasure."

       Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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