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Preventing Student ‘Summer Slide’




By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – As students slip into their summer vacations, it’s up to families to make sure they don’t slip into academic amnesia. Usually, in what is called the summer slide, students forget up to six months of math and reading instruction when they’re not engaged in academic activities between school years.

Matthew Mugo Fields thinks he has the solution to halting that slide. He hopes to bridge the gap with Rocket Group, an education company he founded. His suite of programs for schools and parents blend technology, face-to-face instruction, and specialized curricula based on groundbreaking yet obscure research from Stanford University.

“[Summer slide] is a huge problem. And it’s exacerbated for low-income and minority students,” says Fields, a Morehouse University alumnus who holds a double-masters in business and education from Harvard University. “The research I’ve seen says that nearly half of the achievement gap can be explained by the difference in summer learning between low-income students and their counterparts.

Tammy Drayton is an early childhood teacher in Newark, N.J. Even kindergarten students are expected to know a few things at the start of school, such as counting to 10, colors, shapes, and the days of the week. When such lessons are new or lost to them, the impact is clear.

“We might have to do more one-on-one work with [that student],” she said. “But it may affect their social skills. Because if they realize they’re not on the level of other kids, they tend to pull away and shut down. They feel different, in a sense.”

Summer slide affects older students, too, and the stakes are much higher. In high school, there are fewer interventions and opportunities to relearn lost information, and students can become discouraged with their performance – internally and through the actions of teachers and administrators. In this way, summer slide can lead to dropping out.

It also manifests as poor preparation for post-graduation. Another term, “summer melt,” happens when college-eligible high school seniors do not successfully transition to post-secondary education. The Department of Education estimates that up to 20 percent of high school graduates are lost this way, most of them of color.

“Preparation is a factor, but not the guiding factor of whether a student will be college-bound,” says David Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. “The belief…if they can even go to college diminishes, if they are not supported over time.”

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans is currently working on combatting these summer losses. Although it is still gathering data, it’s clear that parental involvement is one of the most important factors in academic achievement across years, for students of all ages.

“It’s important to acknowledge that the first and most important educator in a child’s life is his or her parents. One of the challenges is engaging parents to supplement learning for their scholars,” says Johns.

“Often the way we think of learning is that it’s for school only, it happens in the classroom within the school day. But educational development…happens throughout the calendar year.”

Drayton says that in her kindergarten classroom, parents’ efforts are more important than the personalized schoolwork packets her school sends home with students.

“My students left me today, and I gave them a list of books along with a summer packet. I don’t necessarily rely on the packets [to determine if slide has occurred],” she says. “It affects [students] based on if they worked with a parent, and it all depends on if they had practice or continuing education in the summer.”

Johns explains that income is the strongest predictor of summer slide. More affluent families have the money, job flexibility, and connections to keep their children engaged with programs, gadgets, and enriching experiences throughout the year.

Other families, who may lack time, money, and access, have to get resourceful in supplementing their child’s education.

“Go to the library – it’s free. Dollar stores sell books, and places like the Salvation Army sometimes gives away books,” Drayton recommends. “Read something with your child every day. It’s essential to build literacy skills over the summer.”

For parents and guardians, Fields offers, which provides personalized academic supplements and one-on-one tutoring via video chat. The supplements are designed to give all students access to the high-quality resources found in traditional gifted and talented classes, regardless of the student’s placement in school. There are free activities on the site, but income-based scholarships and financial assistance is also available to take advantage of the site’s complete offerings.

“I aspire to get many more students to embrace the idea that ‘gifted and talented’ is a destination, it’s something you can become, not just something you’re born as,” Fields says, also recommending the library and recreation centers to prevent summer slide.

“We are in the golden age of technology and education – there are things people can access with any kind of device to keep students engaged. Use the summer to get ahead.”

Johns suggests singing, reading, and playing with younger students to keep their minds sharp, and planning in advance and setting achievable goals for more independent kids. The Department of Education also recommends helping high school students create post-graduation prep checklists, and allowing them to job shadow a parent or relative, or encouraging them to volunteer if they cannot find a job for themselves.

“Create a summer intervention plan. Ensure every day they can preserve their knowledge,” he says. “Sometimes we make this more complicated than it has to be. There’s a role every person can play to make these learning connections, whether grandma reads to them, or dad takes them to the museum, or someone counts money with them. Everyone can be an important part of learning for our scholars.”

Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee Applauds 2nd Round of Workforce Funding from COVID Community Care Act Legislation

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be awarding $121 million to 127 award recipients of the Local Community-Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access Program.



Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be awarding $121 million to 127 award recipients of the Local Community-Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access Program.

Announced on July 27, these awards are funded with resources from provisions within the American Rescue Plan Act that Lee led through her COVID Community Care Act.  This reflects the second of two funding opportunities announced in May 2021 for community-based efforts to hire and mobilize community outreach workers, community health workers, social support specialists, and others to increase vaccine access for the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities through high-touch, on-the-ground outreach to educate and assist individuals in getting the information they need about vaccinations.

The first round of funding, which was administered in June, included an $11 million award to the Public Health Institute in Oakland and a $9.5 million award to the Association of Asian/Pacific Community Health Organizations in Berkeley. Three Oakland based organizations, the Public Health Institute, Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases, and Safe Passages, are recipients of this round of funding, bringing the total funding brought to organizations in CA-13 to nearly $23 million.

“We are facing another inflection point in this pandemic. We must make meaningful investments in getting everyone vaccinated—especially communities of color and medically underserved communities,” said Lee.  “I worked hard in Congress to invest in trusted messengers at the community level to build confidence in vaccines and COVID-19 prevention efforts. This is a much-needed continuation of that work, and we’ll see over a million dollars of investment on the ground in our own East Bay community.

“Our Tri-Caucus – the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Native American member Congresswoman Sharice Davids, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone, Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott and Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro deserve credit for their hard work and support in getting this across the finish line in the American Rescue Plan.  We can see that the work of House Democrats is making a real-life impact on the ground for communities.  This is an important step, but we must continue our work to dismantle systemic racism in our public health system and ensure that vaccines are equitably and adequately distributed.”

The purpose of this program is to establish, expand, and sustain a public health workforce to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.  This includes mobilizing community outreach workers, which includes community health workers, patient navigators, and social support specialists to educate and assist individuals in accessing and receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.  

This includes activities such as conducting face-to-face outreach and reaching out directly to community members to educate them about the vaccine, assisting individuals in making a vaccine appointment, providing resources to find convenient vaccine locations, assisting individuals with transportation or other needs to get to a vaccination site.

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Congratulations to Michelle Mack

Nominated for Teacher of the Year



Photo courtesy Michelle Mack

Congratulations to Michelle Mack, currently a pre-K lead teacher in Atlanta, Ga., who was nominated for Teacher of the Year. A 2008 graduate of St. Elizabeth’s High School who earned a degree in child psychology from San Francisco State University in 2012, Mack received her master’s from Clark University in 2015.

Mack was recognized by the Easter Seals of North Georgia (ESNG) for “serving five consistent years teaching children and helping families with the same company” and awarded the ESNG-Guice Center Award for Individual Excellence.


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Whitewashing History and Suppressing Voters Go Hand in Hand 

There’s been a lot of news about the Democratic legislators in Texas who fled the state to prevent Republicans from pushing through sweeping new voter suppression laws. Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened to have them arrested to force them to attend a special session of the state Legislature.



Element5 Digital on Unsplash

There’s been a lot of news about the Democratic legislators in Texas who fled the state to prevent Republicans from pushing through sweeping new voter suppression laws. Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened to have them arrested to force them to attend a special session of the state Legislature.

Now it turns out that voter suppression is not the only “special” project Abbott has in mind. He and his fellow Republicans are pushing a far-reaching “memory law” that would limit teaching about racism and civil rights.

Abbott already signed a bill last month restricting how racism can be taught in Texas schools. But he and other Republicans in the state don’t think it went far enough. The Republican-dominated state-Senate has voted to strip a requirement that white supremacy be taught as morally wrong. Also on the chopping block: requirements that students learn about civil rights activists Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

It’s not just Texas. Just as Republicans are pushing a wave of voter registration laws around the country, they are also pushing laws to restrict teaching about racism in our history, culture, and institutions. CNN’s Julian Zelizer recently noted that such laws downplay injustices in our history and lead to teaching “propaganda rather than history.”

Here’s a good example:  Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the new legislation is meant to keep students from being “indoctrinated” by the “ridiculous leftist narrative that America and our Constitution are rooted in racism.” If Patrick really believes it is a “ridiculous” idea that racism was embedded in our Constitution from the start, he has already put on his own ideological blinders. And he wants to force them onto teachers and students.

Some of these state memory laws specifically ban teaching that causes “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.” As educators have noted, that’s a recipe for erasing and whitewashing history.

“Teachers in high schools cannot exclude the possibility that the history of slavery, lynchings and voter suppression will make some non-Black students uncomfortable,” history professor Timothy Snyder wrote in the New York Times Magazine. Those laws give power to white students and parents to censor honest teaching of history. “It is not exactly unusual for white people in America to express the view that they are being treated unfairly; now such an opinion could bring history classes to a halt.”

Snyder also explained how new state “memory laws” are connected to voter suppression. “In most cases, the new American memory laws have been passed by state legislatures that, in the same session, have passed laws designed to make voting more difficult,” he wrote. “The memory management enables the voter suppression.”

“The history of denying Black people the vote is shameful,” he explained. “This means that it is less likely to be taught where teachers are mandated to protect young people from feeling shame. The history of denying Black people the vote involves law and society. This means that it is less likely to be taught where teachers are mandated to tell students that racism is only personal prejudice.”

As I wrote in The Nation, far-right attempts to suppress honest teaching about racism is meant to “convince a segment of white voters that they should fear and fight our emerging multiracial and multiethnic democratic society” and to “help far-right politicians take and hold power, no matter the cost to our democracy.”

That’s also what voter suppression bills are designed to do. We cannot tolerate either of these assaults on democracy.

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