Arkansas Educators Encourage Summer Learning to Avoid the Summer Slide

Pamela Acosta

Too much free time and lack of structure during the summer vacation can lead to a regression in academic performance, and experts warn it hinders kids’ progress when heading back to school. 

A recent study showed that students in 3rd to 5th grade lost, on average, about 20% of their school-year gains in reading and 27% in math during the summer break. 

Children from low-income families are most affected by the summer slide, and this inequity can have a lasting impact on their education.

A study by Johns Hopkins University revealed that more than half of the gap in reading scores between low-income students and their middle-income counterparts was caused by a difference in summer learning that accumulated from 1st to 5th grade.

“The gap between students is based on opportunities and exposure,” said Arkansas Teacher of the Year, Stacey Mcadoo. 

“Typically, what happens is that children who come from homes that are not as privileged don’t necessarily get those opportunities to travel overseas or to experience the beach or a vineyard of any of those things. So their vocabulary doesn’t expand as quickly or as much as those who have the opportunity to have those experiences.” 

While it may not be possible for many families to access these experiences, Arkansas educators encourage parents, especially those in minority communities, to continue their studies during the summer months. 

“You can turn any experience into a learning opportunity. Make it a journey. I would advise parents to start with what their kids find the most interesting and build lessons around whatever their interests are,” suggests McAdoo. 

“If your child enjoys writing poetry or making music, turn those hobbies into opportunities for them to gain skills and access the content they will be learning when school starts, or use that as a way to assess what they have previously learned.” 

Parents in Arkansas also have several resources to place their children on a path of continuous learning. 

“There are so many tools and resources to help kids that’s ready for parents to use without necessarily having to guess or go back to when they were in school and figure out how to teach them,” said Sajni Kumpuris, Director of Education at Arkansas PBS. 

This year, for example, the Arkansas Department of Education partnered with the Arkansas state program, Arkansas Out of School Network, to give $1.8 million to 30 new programs to help children. 

McAdoo also suggests parents visit the Department of Education website and look for the “refrigerator curriculum.” The curriculum shows the standards and benchmarks children will study and have to accomplish by the end of that particular grade level. Parents can then use that list to focus on the material their child will be learning in the upcoming school year to ensure success. 

The Arkansas PBS program, Rise and Shine, is also a free resource for parents to encourage their children to continue studying throughout the summer. The program runs for six weeks in the summer on public television, making it accessible to households that may not have access to the internet. Parents can also access the material through the Arkansas PBS website at 

Arkansas Teachers of the Year created the content for Rise and Shine based on their proven teaching methods. Children can go through the material through the learning segments or mini-lessons and sharpen their math, science, social studies, and literacy skills. The lessons also include some national programs rich in academic standards to supplement the existing curriculum. 

Families can also take advantage of the free educational packet with lesson plans and activities that complement the show. PBS partnered with local groups, non-profit organizations, and libraries to make these packages available to every household that requested one. 

Organizers delivered over 56,000 packets and reached all 75 counties. 

“That’s the one thing we know how to do at PBS is making very engaging, funny, fun material that connects to actual learning. We were excited to be able to take this content and have some fun with it,” said Kumpuris. 

The program is available year-round through the Arkansas PBS website, so parents and teachers can access the material during the year. It is available in English and Spanish.