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We need to rethink summer.

The summer break, with all its benefits of rest, relaxation and rejuvenation is the most perilous time for a child's education. Summer learning loss, also known as the "summer slide," affects nearly every student in the country.

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Summer learning loss is defined as a reduction in academic achievement from the beginning of summer to the end. For more than 100 years, study after study has continually shown that American kids fall nearly two months behind during the summer months based on standardized testing that occurs both at the beginning and at the end of an academic year.

This education loss is even more severe for students from low-income families who fall nearly three months behind in the summer.

Over time, this loss adds up. From 1982 to 2002, Harvard conducted the "Beginning School Study." This study showed across-the-board learning loss over the summer. By the fifth grade, low-income students fell three grade levels behind their peers of middle- and upper-income families. As we look at the gap in achievement in students, the income gap appears to be directly correlated.

Here in Arkansas, the challenge is even greater. That's why it's important for communities to come together and create opportunities for our students--all of our students--to have access to quality educational and literacy programs.

Here in central Arkansas, we already have some quality summer learning resources. But many go unnoticed and unattended. I'd like to see that change. My greatest hope for the summer of 2016 is that these programs run at full capacity. And that we have to create more. And more.

At the Clinton Center, we will kick off our summer programming today to increase awareness about summer learning loss and stimulate continued conversation about how to address it.

"Bridge to the Future" is a community festival designed to encourage students to read throughout their summer break. This free event will include fun activities for kids and literacy, health, and safety resources for parents. "Bridge to the Future" is an opportunity for students and parents to learn more about available community resources that can help curb the summer setback and promote literacy.

We will close the summer with the "Head of Class Bash." Held every August, the bash is where we give away backpacks, school supplies, and even health screenings and immunizations to help prepare students for the coming school year.

In between, we host "Super Summer Saturdays." This weekly program welcomes families to participate in free programming related to the Clinton Center's temporary exhibit, American Champions: The Quest for Olympic Glory.

Our mission is to serve as an educational resource. Since our opening in 2004, we have asked educators across the state to consider the Center as an extension of their classroom. Along the same lines, we ask that parents understand that the Clinton Center is a resource for them as well. And we hope that as the days grow longer and the thermostat climbs, parents will utilize our unique educational programming offered throughout the summer.

We are committed to creating partnerships of purpose to create opportunity, promote responsibility, and empower the community.

We are committed to working with institutions of learning--from pre-K through post-graduate, nonprofit organizations, houses of worship, government entities, non-government entities, businesses both big and small--to address this very specific and impactful issue.

Let's rethink summer.

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Joyce Willis is the educational programs manager for the Clinton Foundation. She is working to address summer learning loss with Bridge to the Future, which will be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the Clinton Presidential Center.

Editorial on 05/21/2016

Print Headline: To bridge the gap

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