By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
The 2011-12 school year is rapidly drawing to close. Tupelo’s schools had their final day on Friday, and Lee County Schools will dismiss on Monday. Most other schools in Northeast Mississippi completed their year last week or do so this week. The summer can be an important break for students, but it can also be a time when they lose some of the academic progress they have made. The Daily Journal’s Chris Kieffer spoke with Saltillo Elementary Principal Coke Magee about ways that parents can keep their children sharp academically during the summer. Magee is Lee County School District’s administrator of the year and will become the district’s assistant superintendent on July 1.
Q: How much time do teachers spend reteaching material from the previous year?
A: The phenomenon known as the “summer slide” is a reference to a loss of achievement that students seem to exhibit when returning to school after summer vacation. In the elementary grades this gap that is created, especially in the area of reading, can accumulate over several years and ultimately lead to a student’s inability to master grade-level work. Teachers typically spend the first couple of weeks assessing the achievement levels of their students and reviewing test data in an effort to recognize those areas of the curriculum where they might be deficient. Reviewing skills from the previous year coincides with the introduction of new skills in the current year’s curriculum, so that review is relevant to the student.
Q: What can parents do to prevent the “summer slide?”
A: Most communities have several different opportunities for students to participate in summer enrichment programs and learning camps. Trips to the local library, a zoo, state and national parks and local landmarks are great ways to encourage learning in a fun atmosphere. Especially for young students, taking the time to sit and listen to them read a book of their choosing can help eliminate any possible “slide” in achievement. In some cases, there is a need for a student to be involved in a more rigorous summer program, but the time and frequency of these programs should be closely monitored so the student doesn’t lose interest.
Q: What are the best and worst things a parent can do over the summer in preparation for the next school year?
A: Parents should try to make sure that any educational experience their child participates in over the summer is a fun and enjoyable experience. Keeping learning fun and relevant has proven to be the most effective way to increase student achievement. Most importantly, parents should instill in their children the value of an education and of learning, whether it is during the school year or summer break.