Ahh, those halcyon days of summer … from which our children emerge "dumber and fatter," writes Peter Orszag on Bloomberg. Come fall, the average child is at least one month behind where they were academically before going on break, and they've also most likely put on weight two to three times faster than they did during the rest of the year. How can we remedy the situation? He offers three ideas, cascading from most to least difficult:
- Make the school year longer. "More time at task helps children learn, and it would be worth the extra expense involved." His reaction to moaning teachers? Remember that "few other professions get three months off."
- Offer a summer program: Kids up to fifth grade who qualify for free meals would get an invite to join a six-week enrichment program. The idea was pitched by two economists a few years ago; they calculated the cost per child at less than $2,000.
- Offer voluntary reading programs: It wouldn't cost much to offer kids of low socioeconomic status books to read over the summer, and to ask teachers to encourage them to read before the school year ends (the encouragement factor is key, notes Orszag).
Neither children nor lawmakers should rest on their laurels in July, Orszag concludes. "When Congress finally gets around to considering the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it should include an aggressive program to reverse summer learning loss." Full column here