Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Summer Tutoring
Avoiding the brain drain

by Amy Seng Holtzman

July 01, 2011

All through the school year, students around the country look forward to the lazy days of summer, but our long summer vacation may be leaving our kids behind in the global marketplace. Research shows that many American children are suffering from summer learning loss. It’s also called the summer slide, and what it means is that many students are losing valuable skills that they learned during the school year.

Dr. Harris Cooper of Duke University is known for his research on education and his outspoken opinion about the need for summer learning opportunities. Harris said research shows students lose ground in summer. He and his colleagues reviewed 39 studies on school and learning loss and found that achievement scores for all students fell between spring and fall.

Here at home, teachers experience summer learning loss every year. Katie Stafford, a first grade teacher at Hornet Park Elementary School, said, “Summer learning loss impacts all of our students in some capacity. Unfortunately, much of the early fall is spent repeating lost information from the summer.”

Many schools offer programs to help bridge the gap between spring and the start of school in August. Beech Grove City Schools received a grant to provide summer enrichment programs for 180 at-risk students. Colleen Borgert, director of program operations at Beech Grove City Schools, said this free five-week program is designed to help students meet state standards so the achievement gap may be eliminated.

If you don’t have access to a program through your school district, learning centers around town offer programs to stem learning loss. Thomas Jones is president of Indiana Learning Systems. At his Sylvan Learning Centers, children can participate in summer learning camps that are grade appropriate. There are math, writing and reading camps. Sylvan also encourages parents to keep kids learning at home. The mantra here is: keep them counting, writing and reading.

In fact, the teachers and experts we talked to said if you do nothing else this summer, make sure your child reads every day. Chris Snow is a teacher and parent at IPS School 2. He said, “Teachers can most definitely distinguish the students who continued to read over the summer from those who did little to no reading,” he said.

You can start your summer reading at The Indianapolis Public Library. The library is encouraging reading and is also putting the spotlight on science skills this summer, with there being science shows at most branches. The topics include: gases, magnets and animals. Details on all the programs are available at

When it comes to practicing math skills, Indianapolis Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year, Michael Anderson, has some advice. “The most important and effective things you can do to support your child’s mathematics education and retention over summer are the things you do together that highlight how math is an important aspect of your life.” Anderson suggested family activities such as giving your child a budget at the grocery store and asking them to plan a meal with that budget.

Learning opportunities are everywhere, too, if you know where to look. Snow said, “A school’s percentage of students impacted by summer learning loss is often related to the quality of experiences the children have over the summer.”

An obvious choice is The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis where there are exhibits to engage children of all ages. President and CEO, Dr. Jeffry Patchen, said, “We recognize the importance of providing children and families new learning opportunities year-round, but especially during the summer months when many families have more time to spend together.” You’ll find a new exhibit at the museum this summer with valuable history and archaeological lessons. National Geographic Treasures of the Earth features recreations of an Egyptian tomb and a Caribbean shipwreck. Families can even take advantage of free family nights. You can get in free on the first Thursday of the month from 4 to 8 p.m.

A walk through the Indianapolis Zoo will put your child nose-to-nose with tigers, dolphins and more. Tolly Foster works at the zoo and said, “These types of experiences motivate not only our young visitors but our adults as well to appreciate the wonders of the world we live in and to begin to ask question and all learning begins with a question.”

In Bloomington, kids can enjoy the wonder of science at the Wonderlab. Exhibits include learning how toys work, the science of sound and learning about the human body. Karen Jepson-Innes, WonderLab’s associate executive director, said that visiting the museum regularly will help improve your child’s educational take-away. “Research shows that learning is enhanced with multiple visits to explore an exhibit as opposed to a one-time experience,” she said.

In Fishers, you can explore Conner Prairie Interactive History Park. The park features five themed historic areas. Your child can travel back to the 19th century to make paper, beads, or a new journal. There is also a science lab and a petting barn. Also this summer, Conner Prairie will feature a special look at the Civil War in “Raid on Indiana”.

Whatever you do this summer, make learning fun and do allow for some downtime, but remember, if an athlete doesn’t practice their skills over the summer, they lose their edge. The same is true for academic skills, but the good news is keeping those skills sharp is easy with the right resources. Be sure to check out our monthly calendar for more fun, educational programs around town.