Summer education programs: easing that three month learning gap

Early childhood education is just as critical during the summer as in the regular school year.
Updated: May. 18, 2023 at 8:00 AM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Education is fundamental to the growth and development of children, and during the school year, having full access to all the resources the school has to offer can make all the difference.

School can also be where they go for hot meals, healthy communication, and a safe place, but what happens to these kids in the summer?

According to the American Education Research Journal, over half (52%) of students lose an average of 39% of what they learned during the school year, while on summer vacation.

Summer education not only eases this gap but also provides opportunities students may not see in their lives outside of school.

“So, summer education provides not only education opportunities for the children but also a safe space for children that may be left home alone during the summer, there’s not as much supervision, parents can’t take off work, so we’re happy to provide that safe space that provides the educational opportunities. Also, they get three meals a day here which sometimes with some families is really important,” says Lil Friends Learning Center director, Rose Ludeman.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, early education has fallen on hard times. With not enough funding or staff, kids, parents, and teachers involved in summer education programs, like at Lil Friends Learning Center, are struggling to make ends meet.

“Early childhood has really fallen on hard times since Covid, it’s kind of shown a light on a system that was already struggling. We are a for-profit so that does have a factor in it, our tuition is slightly higher than other places in the community, however, because of that we are able to pay our teachers a little bit better and provide higher quality care, higher quality facility,” Ludeman concludes.

Teachers from the area, make sure to keep these summer education programs running, as they head from one school during the day, to the next in the evening. Taking their summer vacations and giving them back to kids who need continuing education.

These teachers want to emphasize that summer education is vital to early learning development.

“I think everybody knows especially parents and people in the education field that a lot of summer learning loss happens in those 3 months that they are away from school so it’s really important that kids keep their minds active and engaged,” shares Christina Freeman, a 3rd and 4th-grade teacher.

The teachers involved also work to make sure that kids are not only continuing their education but also having a fun summer vacation as well.

“In our classroom, it kind of depends on our day. We make sure to load our schedule up. It’s not so much of a focus on like math and reading and writing, although we do have those elements in our summer program. But there is more of a focus on things they might not have as much time to learn about during the school year,” Freeman concludes, along with Chase Erics, a teacher and center manager at Lil Friends Learning Center.

According to the Department of Education summer education programs achieve several important goals, particularly among low-income students, but remain some of the most underfunded programs in the country.

South Dakota is one of the few states that does not federally fund continuing education programs and ranks as one of the worst states for early childhood education.