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summer slide

Jozef Jason, 7, reads to his barber
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Most kids will head back to school this week ready to learn. But some will have to spend a good chunk of time re-learning things they forgot over the summer. The dreaded “summer slide” has been linked to persistent achievement gaps between kids from lower-income families and their better-off peers.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

This week on State of Opportunity, we’re going to summer camp!

I spent this past Monday with about 100 elementary school students at Camp Burt Shurly, a 250-acre campground near Chelsea. The week-long, overnight camp is run by the Detroit Public School district. Each Sunday a new set of campers arrives by bus. There's tons to do here – everything from boating and swimming to arts and crafts, nature hikes and archery. And because the camp is run by a school district, the campers have to take math and English classes, too, to help combat the "summer slide" many kids face.

Camp is paid for with Title 1 funds, so it's free for DPS students, many of whom might not be able to afford camp otherwise. 

Terry Gaule is overseeing a rocket mission.

His team: a classroom full of 14 and 15 year old kids from Grand Rapids.

The mission: to build balloon-powered, Styrofoam rocket carts that will shoot across the floor.

The ultimate goal: learn the laws of the universe.

"The rocket is going to demonstrate Newton’s Third Law of Motion," says Gaule. "For every force, there’s another force that’s equal in magnitude but opposite in direction."  

Newton’s Third Law. Action, reaction.

This class itself, this whole summer program, is a reaction. A reaction to a big problem - the problem that kids from low-income families tend to do worse in school than kids from families with more money. The achievement gap problem.

Online learning and the summer achievement gap

Jun 21, 2013
child at a computer
fedesk8 / flickr

This is State of Opportunity's first piece on technology and opportunity, an issue I'll be exploring over the next couple of months as one of State of Opportunity's youth journalists.

If the “summer slide” can reverse the gains kids make during the school year, it's worth exploring if online classes can help slow the slide down.

Happy summer! Most school districts around the state are officially dunzo with the school year as of the end of the day today.

It's doubtless many kids have lots to celebrate after closing a successful year. These pages are full of stories from kids and parents who work incredibly hard to get a quality education. 

But it's also a sure bet lots of kids are tired out and looking forward to rotting their brains for as long as they can get away with it.