By Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore
For The Hollywood Star News
With the school year nearing its end, students and families all over Oregon are beginning to think about the upcoming summer and their time outside of school.
I want to take a moment to stress the importance of providing young people with safe places to learn during the summer months, because not all Oregon families can afford summer camps and summer tutors. This is especially important because increased evidence shows that students who experience summer learning loss start the school year behind. Simply put, the long summer break should not be a long break from learning.
With Oregon’s four-year high school graduation rate at an alarmingly low 74%, it is long past time we shine a spotlight on summer learning loss and its impact on our students’ path toward graduation. That’s especially important in our state where one in four teenagers don’t make it to graduation.
Most students lose math and reading skills during summer break, as research by the National Summer Learning Association shows. Students from low-income families fare even worse. The sad truth is that the lack of access to learning programs for underprivileged kids in the summer widens the achievement gap between those students and their higher-income classmates. Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math computation skills over the summer months, and low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement.
As parents, community leaders, educators and policymakers, we must provide every resource possible to bridge that gap for disadvantaged and low-income students. I have long fought to close the achievement gap and support all students on a path toward high school graduation and beyond. In the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act, I ensured the bill requires that states improve student learning at low-performing schools and at schools with low-performing student groups. Now, the state of Oregon can provide federal funding to school districts to hire mentor-teachers or create after-school and summer learning programs to support underperforming schools and struggling students.
I know so many great education advocates in Oregon who share these goals, and I want to commend Oregon’s tremendous educators who work on this effort every single day. My good friends at Oregon Afterschool for Kids have made a commitment to keep kids learning all summer long. Their efforts to open up school libraries and school cafeterias in Woodburn, Salem, Eugene and around the state have truly made a difference in children’s lives by providing them with a safe and welcoming learning environment during the summer. I saw parents bring their children for a free lunch, and stay for the free books.
This year I hope to see even more communities come out and support our students by hosting summer learning activities. Summer Learning Day is July 14, so mark your calendars. Even if you cannot attend one of these great events to serve lunch and read stories to classrooms full of children, remember that supporting summer learning is easy. Volunteering your time, or donating books or crayons to neighbors is another way to support young learners.
As I have traveled around the state having conversations in high school auditoriums and school gyms, I have heard so many good ideas on how to help students succeed in school. Oregonians agree that we must support all aspects of a student’s life to improve their outcomes, and I will add that this rings true all year long. I have seen firsthand that our communities are ready to come together and support students who need it. This is truly the Oregon way.
I am committed to helping more of our students get their high school diplomas and increase the rate at which our students are graduating from high school. Fighting summer learning loss is one way we can keep all students on a path toward a bright future.