NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Children From Poor Backgrounds Lose Reading Skills in Summer

August 17, 2000

During the school year, children from economically disadvantaged families and those from wealthier backgrounds register about the same progress in reading scores, experts report. But during the summer, reading skills of poor children tend to deteriorate, while those of their wealthier peers keep improving.

  • Several studies indicate that students who score one standard deviation higher on math and reading tests -- comparing those at the 15th percentile to those at the 50th percentile, for example -- earn, on average, 15 percent to 20 percent more as adults.
  • Boosting scores is also important from a national perspective -- since labor force projections indicate a slowdown in the growth of the skilled workforce in the next two decades, suggesting an eventual impediment to economic growth.
  • Economist Alan B. Krueger suggests low-income parents be given a scholarship, or voucher, to send their children to private or public summer learning programs in order to preserve the gains students make during the regular school year.
  • At present, only 9 percent of students in the U.S. attend summer school.

Summer school bolsters achievement if it is focused on specific academic goals, according to a review of 93 evaluations of separate summer programs by Harris Cooper of the University of Missouri.

Source: Alan B. Krueger, "Economic Scene: Vouchers for Summer School Could Help Halt the Learning Slide," New York Times, August 17, 2000.


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