COVID-19 may not be killing children in the same numbers as adults, but the virus that has locked down the world for nearly 5 months now, is having a grave and long-lasting impact on kids. In addition to the existing challenges faced by children and families in the midst of the pandemic, the Summer months ahead pose additional unique challenges. The thought of the effect this 6-month school break will have on masses of children is frightening, especially its impact on kids from low-income families who already tend to lag behind.
Summer has always been a time when gaps get wider. The seminal Coleman Report published in 1966 showed that student outcomes inside the classroom are predicated on their circumstances outside the classroom. More recent studies show that summer is a pivotal period for student learning. Nationally, children enjoy summer breaks of 8–10 weeks, summer learning loss has been estimated at between 10–25 percent of yearly learning, with children from poorer households disproportionately affected. Studies in low-income settings show that gaps in schooling lead to drop outs at critical transitions between educational levels, and can lower the progression of the most disadvantaged children through the school system.
Summer slides are especially pernicious because their effects are cumulative. By the time a student gets to middle school, they’ve lost an average of two years to summer slide. At higher grade levels, the effect grows even stronger. The consequences of a six-month summer vacation are almost impossible to imagine.
Moreover, the effects of summer slide extend far beyond testing outcomes. For example, low-income students who experience the greatest summer learning loss are more likely to drop out of high school. That’s because lapses in school not only produce losses in learning, but, as Alexander and his colleagues wrote, also “losses in health and well-being, college and career opportunity, and support needed to break cycles of inter-generational poverty and move young people and their families forward.”
Learning opportunities and life outcomes are multifaceted and interrelated. Students from households with greater levels of connectivity, higher levels of parental education, greater availability of parental time for engagement, and in-home availability of books and materials have much better ability to access and benefit from distance learning. These advantages are further reinforced by the reliance of these responses on the use of technology, as the absence of connectivity and technology gap has slowed down the shift to distance learning during COVID-19 and continues to be a major challenge. Experts warn that technologically mediated distance learning is likely to increase inequality in learning continuity.
What we’re doing about it
Care in Action Minnesota is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, providing essential support to foster youth, children and families impacted by abuse or neglect in Washington, Ramsey, Dakota, Winona, Fillmore, and Hennepin Counties, since 2005. Through a variety of programs and initiatives, we work to promote the social, physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being of children, strengthen families, connect communities and prevent childhood maltreatment. We thrive to foster equity, trauma-informed healing, family stability, and self-sufficiency.
CIAM’s resource activation networks have been able to support thousands of children and families, across Minnesota. At CIAM, in addition to assuring access to basic needs, we focus on strengthening learning opportunities and the personal development and enrichment of the children and youth we serve. We look to the summer months ahead as an opportunity to combat coronavirus learning loss, by providing children and youth, among other things: laptops for online learning, covering online courses and summer camp costs, Summer monthly STEM kits that allow for personalized enrichment through increasingly complex activities, and book club subscriptions where books, tailoring to child’s age, reading level and interests, are also delivered monthly to their homes.
The impact that learning materials can have on learning continuity during periods of school closure are well researched. For example, a US-based intervention that mailed 10 books to students over the summer matched to students reading interests, accompanied by email or text messages to parents, promoted more than one month of gains in reading skills. Additionally, when children gain a sense of mastery of their environments, they are more likely to develop feelings of self-worth, confidence and independence.
Ultimately, we hope our efforts respond to immediate needs, support equitable recovery, and strengthen our ongoing efforts to support child well-being, strengthen families, connect communities and prevent childhood maltreatment.
You can join us
While COVID-19 has been tough on everyone, it has been particularly disastrous for families that were already struggling to make ends meet. We need $5,000 to support the development and combat learning loss among our most vulnerable. We operate by a committed group of volunteers and core supporters and all donations are tax deductible and 100% OF YOUR DONATION WILL GO DIRECTLY TOWARDS PROVIDING ENGAGING LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES TO AT-RISK CHILDREN AND YOUTH.