Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

Collaboration Between Schools, Parents, and Summer Programs

This common phrase, attributed to an old African Proverb although the exact origin has been lost, is especially true for youth in the summer time. During the academic school year, students benefit from both schools and families support academically. In the summer families tend to be the only source of academic progression. Evidence has been found that suggests that students tend to have some achievement loss during the summer and that these losses strongly connected to differences among families, most notably the parents’ socioeconomic status (SES) (Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay, & Greathouse, 1996; Entwisle, Alexander, & Olson, 1997).
            Called the “summer slide”, researchers have been studying the phenomena of students’ fall achievement being lower than the scores they achieved during the spring for the past 100 years (Cooper et al., 1996). The data from this research “by Cooper and his colleagues (1996)
estimated that during the summer break the typical child loses a little more than 1month’s worth of skill or knowledge in math and reading/language arts combined.” Middle class children’s’ reading scores remain stable during the summer months while low-income children’s’ scores decline. Their reading skill levels fall about 3 months behind their middle-class counterpart which ultimately leads to significant gaps in educational achievement between the two groups. Compared to the academic year where research has shown that students regardless of SES perform and learn at the same rate. Middle-class families tend to have more educational resources within their communities that provide opportunities to practice reading and learn new literacy skills. (Entwisle et al., 1997).  
Researchers need to recognize and address the valuable opportunities to understand the effects that families, outside organizations, and schools have on educational outcomes for low-income youth.

A few components that are related to improved achievement in summer programs:
·       small-group or individualized instruction
·       early intervention during the primary grades    
     ·       parent involvement and participation  
·       careful scrutiny for treatment fidelity, including monitoring to ensure that instruction is being delivered as prescribed and monitoring student attendance.

Issues that summer programs must combat:
·         short program duration
·         loose organization and little time for advanced planning
·         low academic expectations
·         discontinuity between the summer curriculum and the       curriculum during the regular school year
·         teacher fatigue
·         limited academic focus

A few museum programs that address the need for collaboration between schools, families, and museums are:
The Cool Culture in New York City, NY
The Cool Culture is an organization dedicated to connecting low-income families with cultural institutions in NYC. They partner with 90 of New York City’s best cultural institutions and over 450 early education providers to offer free access to NYC’s museums, botanical gardens, and zoo to 50,000 underserved families. A majority of the families earn less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Line ($23,000).

Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, WA
The Whatcom Museum offers free admission to qualifying families. Whatcom families whose children are eligible for free or reduced lunch can apply for this membership program. The membership lasts one year with free admission as well as free or reduced rates for programs and events during the year. Families must fill out an application form and provide a copy of their free and reduced lunch program eligibility notification letter. A $1,000 grant from the Whatcom Community Foundation was given for outreach and to market the program.  

Geoffrey D. Borman, James Benson, Laura T. Overman,"Families, Schools, and Summer Learning" , The Elementary School Journal, Vol. 106, No. 2 (November 2005), pp. 131-150


  1. When I was teaching in charter schools, we talked a lot about the "summer slide" you (and Cooper, et. al) refer to. I believe that this slide is a huge contributor to the Achievement Gap in education. We so often refer to this as a gap between races, but I agree with your blog's idea that it is actually a gap between socioeconomic levels. Rich kids don't lose very much in the summer because their families can afford to do enrichment activities; meanwhile poorer students fall farther and farther behind each year (compounded by less effective teachers/school) because they lack reinforcement in the summer!

    As a future museum professional, I will definitely seek to expand affordable (or free) summer enrichment programs for youth!

  2. Great post. I always resented my dad saying that summer/winter breaks are times to study more. But now I know what he's talking about. =)

    How do museums advertise to the parents? What's the best way? Is it through the schools before the students go on break? Newspaper? Library? How are these low-income families getting news about these opportunities?


  3. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis ( also offers a cool membership program for low-income families: The Neighborhood Club. Families and individuals living in one of the six neighborhoods in the Mid-North area are eligible for a free membership to the museum. The museum has also partnered with the Indiana Department of Child Services to offer a foster family membership. Foster families can sign up for a free one-year membership for adults sharing the same household, their foster children, stepchildren, and biological children under 21.

    In addition to memberships, the museum also seeks to engage low-income youth through summer programs like Starpoint Summer Camp, an affordable, curriculum-based summer program. The camp is a unique, six week long camp available to ages 6–12. Each week is themed according to an exhibit or element in the museum. See more community initiatives at

  4. I definitely think that summer camp programs are the best way to go. Many low-income families also cannot afford the time to take their children to museums because of longer work schedules. Also, the cost of transportation might also be an issue, especially if the institution is not accessible by public transportation. I think it would be interesting if local libraries and museums got together during the school breaks to come up with programing to keep students engaged.