Friday, May 25, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

15 Critical Facts Everyone Should Know About Summer Learning Loss

Cross posted from
Summer vacation is a long entrenched tradition for American schoolchildren and their families, but new research is showing that this practice may not be the best when it comes to helping kids get the most out of their educational experience. In fact, for some kids, a few months off in the summer can lead to major setbacks in school, including loss of knowledge and lowered test scores. Many schools, aware of the growing body of evidence that points to the educational problems summer vacations pose, are switching to year-round schedules, but there are many more around the nation that are finding it hard to make the switch due to resistance from teachers, students, and parents alike. Here, we share some facts that can help make understanding why extended summer vacations should be a thing of the past for modern students, especially those who are in high-risk communities where every moment in the classroom counts.
  1. Students score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do at the beginning of summer vacation

    While having a few months off for rest and relaxation might seem beneficial to students, it can actually have some serious consequences. The traditional long summer vacation often results in serious learning loss, something researchers have known for more than 100 years now. A century of study has shown that students routinely score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they did just a few months earlier, with low-income and at-risk students seeing the biggest drops, the exact groups so many schools are trying so hard to push to have better test scores.
  2. Students will lose about two months of math computational skills over the summer

    When it comes to summer learning loss, math takes one of the biggest hits. On average, students lose about 2.6 months worth of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills during their summer break. With many schools struggling to meet state and federal standards in math, these kinds of losses aren't doing anything to help matters.
  3. Reading and spelling abilities are also affected

    Math isn't the only subject that takes a knock over summer vacation. Losses in reading and spelling abilities may also occur, though income may play a significant role in how severe these losses are, or whether or not they occur at all. While middle-income students usually see a rise in reading performance during the summer months, lower-income students may lose two or more months worth of reading achievement. Students at all income levels, however, were likely to lose a month or more of spelling learning skills, the second highest loss in any area.
  4. Students with the biggest losses over the summer are in already higher-risk low income groups

    Sadly, the students who see the biggest drops in test scores and educational achievement are those who are in lower-income groups. Income plays a major role in determining just how much learning loss will occur over the summer, with students from middle- or upper-class families undergoing much lower levels of learning loss than their poorer counterparts.
  5. Summer learning loss can follow students through high school, college, and beyond

    Summer learning loss isn't a temporary phenomenon. Losses can accumulate over years, eventually resulting in students who perform below their grade level. Low-income students, those who lose the most from time away from school, see the biggest impact, not only reporting lower test scores but higher drop-out rates and lower numbers of students who head to college.
  6. Only 9.2% of America's 48 million students attend summer school

    Today, just under 10% of students nationwide participate in summer school or attend schools with non-traditional calendars. That means that more than 90% of students in America will be at risk for potentially damaging summer learning loss.
  7. Parents play a key role in filling in the gaps over the summer

    When it comes to helping stanch summer learning loss, parents have a key role to play. Learning loss is much less pronounced, if there at all, in families that enrolled children in classes, took trips to local libraries, participated in reading programs, or took advantage of other, often free, learning opportunities. Numerous studies have shown that children have much better reading outcomes when parents are involved in learning about and helping their children with literacy.
  8. The current 9-month school calendar was established to suit demands that no longer exist

    Having a nice, long summer vacation may be an American tradition, but it isn't one that really reflects the needs and demands of the modern world. The traditional academic calendar used in most schools was developed when most families worked in agriculture and air conditioning systems had yet to be invented. Since neither of these are realities in much of America these days, many have argued that long summer breaks simply aren't necessary anymore, especially because they take such a hefty toll on test scores and academic performance.
  9. Much of the achievement gap between disadvantaged youths and their peers can be explained by summer learning loss in elementary school

    Because students who are from low-income families have unequal access to summer learning opportunities, many fall behind in their studies and cannot keep up with their wealthier peers. While it might not seem that the summer months would have a big impact on students, it's estimated that as much as two-thirds of the achievement gap is the result of summer learning loss. As a result of these early losses, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or to enter college.
  10. Many parents and students want to engage in summer learning programs but do not have access to them

    A 2010 report by the Afterschool Alliance found that, while only 25% of students were currently participating in summer learning programs, many more would like the opportunity to do so. A full 83% of parents supported spending public funds on summer learning programs and 67% of low-income parents said their children would enroll in a summer program if they could.
  11. What students lose in knowledge, they often gain in weight

    Students get more than book learning from time spent at school; they also learn to eat a healthy diet. Many depend on the nutritious meals given to them by their school to be able to maintain a healthy diet. When these federally subsidized meals are no longer available to them, students often make poorer food choices, especially when left unsupervised by working parents. Currently, only one in five of the 15.3 million children who participate in the free or reduced lunch program get federally sponsored lunches over the summer. A 2007 study found that most children, especially those already at risk of obesity, gain weight more rapidly over summer break.
  12. Research shows that teachers typically spend between four to six weeks re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer

    Summer learning loss isn't just bad for students, it also makes things more difficult for educators. In order to come back from losses caused by an extended time away from school, teachers must spend a month or more re-teaching or reviewing material students have already been taught. It goes without saying that this is a huge waste of valuable classroom time that could be better spent teaching students new material.
  13. More than 11% of children between the ages of 6 and 12 care for themselves over the summer months

    This means that they are unsupervised, a situation that is not only dangerous but that often leads to greater summer learning losses, as children are not being guided through learning opportunities like trips to the library, museums, or educational vacations. Low-income children are much more likely to be left unsupervised (likely due to the high costs of childcare), a fact that is reflected in greater levels of learning loss.
  14. Out-of-school time can be dangerous for unsupervised children and teens

    Students who are alone for most of the day over summer vacation aren't just losing important educational information, they're also being put at a higher risk for dropping out altogether. Unsupervised children and teens are more likely to use alcohol, drugs, and tobacco; engage in criminal and other high-risk behaviors; receive poor grades; and drop out of school than those who are supervised and engaged by adults over the summer months and after school during the school year.
  15. Most summer learning programs are remedial

    Sadly, students today have few options for federally- and state-sponsored summer school programs. Summer school has a negative connotation which can make students reluctant to take classes and parents unwilling to enroll them. Why? More than 90% of summer school programs are remedial, targeting only students who are not performing at grade level. While these kinds of programs can be positive for students, studies have shown that year-round education programs and extended school years are far more effective methods of stemming the summer learning loss phenomenon.

History Pin

Historypin is a way for millions of people to come together to share glimpses of the past and build up the story of human history. It allows anyone with the Google account to explore the images, You can either add images or can explore the imagery added by others.

View the video below to learn more about Historypin.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

50 Inspiring Gap Year Ideas for High School Students

cross posted from

Gap years have long been a common occurrence for students in Europe and Australia but are just now catching on in the U.S. Some students use them as a chance to gain work experience, some want to see the world, and others just want to feel a little more ready to head to college. Whatever the reason behind choosing a gap year, there are numerous possibilities for customizing the experience to your own unique needs and interests. Here, we share just a few inspiring ideas for trips and experiences that you're sure to remember for years to come.


If you'd like to gain valuable work experience during your gap year, consider these ideas.

1.Teach in South America. Want to mix an adventure in the wilds of South America with some teaching experience? Head to Ecuador to help young children learn English and gain academic skills while enjoying some jungle treks, mountain biking, and white-water rafting.

2.WWOOF your way around the world. If you need a way to fund your gap year, consider WWOOFing it. Not sure what that it is? It's a group called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms that can help young high school grads work as they travel by offering work on farms around the world.

3.Take on an internship in another country. There are numerous programs that can help you find internships abroad, letting you gain experience while living and working in a new and exciting location.

4.Help people with small tasks. Another way to help fund a gap is by taking on jobs found through HelpX, a site that matches up those who need help with smaller tasks like building, farming, and even sailing with those who need free accommodation and food.

5.Help out with the family business. If you think you might want to go into the family business, take a gap year to work, getting to know the ropes. You might find a major that will suit your career in the business, or learn that it's just not for you.

6.Work on a farm or ranch. City types can expand their horizons during a gap year by heading out to the country to get experience working on a farm or ranch. Get a bit more adventurous by heading to a farm overseas.

7.Start your own business. Always dreamed of being an entrepreneur? Use your gap year to pull together a business plan, inspired by your travels, internships, or great ideas you've always wanted to try.

8.Teach English somewhere far-flung. Head to Asia, South America, or the Middle East to see what life is like on the other side of the world and gain some valuable work experience in the process.

9.Become an au pair. Being an au pair can be a truly wonderful way to experience a bit of the world while working. You'll get to live with a local family, learn the language, and taste all aspects of the culture.

10.Work on an oil rig. While it might not be for everyone, working in an extreme situation, like on an oil rig, can be an amazing life experience that will more than prepare you for the challenges of college.


Many people want to spend their gap years traveling as much as possible. These are just a few ideas for some seriously amazing trips.

11.Take a train ride though Europe. Europe is perhaps one of the easiest places to get around by train. Buy a Eurorail pass and you can travel to 23 different countries.

12.Backpack through Asia. Find a friend, grab a backpack, and trek through the beautiful mountains, coasts, and cities of Southeast Asia. If you don't find backpacking fun, you can always take a more traditional trip as well.

13.Take a safari. Love wildlife? A safari is a great way to get up close and personal with many animals you've only seen in zoos.

14.Hop on the Trans-Siberian Railway. An overland trip, like one offered by the Trans-Siberian Railway, is a great way to see a country. The thousands of miles of this railroad stretch through China, Mongolia, Manchuria, Russia, and North Korea.

15.Take an extended road trip. America is a big, big country and chances are pretty good that even if you're well-traveled you haven't seen even a fraction of what it has to offer. A long road trip (in a reliable car) with some friends can help you to see some of the sights you've been missing.

16.Become a global foodie. If you've ever seen the show No Reservations then you know that half the fun of visiting new places can be tasting the local cuisine. If you're a lover of fine foods, why not make that a focus of your travels?

17.See great works of art. No matter where you travel in the world, there are bound to be museums and monuments where you can see some of the most iconic and beautiful works ever created, a real education for any budding art historian or artist.

18.Visit all the national parks. There are 58 national parks in the United States, making it possible for the determined traveler to hit nearly all of them in a year.

19.Drive a camper through Australia. The Australian outback, as barren and open as it is, has a mysterious sort of appeal. Rent a camper to explore this huge country down under, outback, cities, and coasts alike, during your gap year.


Give your gap year a deeper meaning by helping others. Find some great ideas for a variety of volunteering trips here.

20.Help wildlife in Borneo. Borneo is a popular place to volunteer, largely because of the wildlife. You can work at centers that help rehabilitate orangutans, monkeys, and even some unique species of birds.

21.Volunteer in your community. While it can be exciting to volunteer abroad, it's likely that there are plenty of organizations closer to home that could use your help as well. If you're not sure where to start, consider an online network like VolunteerMatch.

22.Help rebuild America. The National Civilian Community Corps or AmeriCorps is a great place to learn leadership skills while helping communities in need.

23.Volunteer for community projects in Africa. Whether you teach school, help bring water to villages, build homes, or something else entirely, a trip to Africa can help you see the world while helping others.

24.Work to save an endangered species. Both within the U.S. and in a variety of places around the globe people are working tirelessly to help rebuild and protect populations of seriously endangered species. You can help the effort by volunteering your time.

25.Become part of a conservation effort. Check out opportunities offered by the Student Conservation Association to use your time off to help save trees, national parks, and American wildlife.

26.Join City Year. Give a year of your life to this organization, focused on helping keep kids interested, engaged, and excelling in school.


Give yourself the experience of a lifetime with these gap year ideas.

27.Go on an expedition to Antarctica. If you're the adventurous type (and don't mind some chilly temps) a trip to the bottom of the world could be a pretty cool (pun intended) way to spend a few months out of your gap year.

28.Walk the Appalachian Trail. Stretching from Maine to Georgia, this popular and well-worn trail will test your mettle as you navigate your way through the mountains, valleys, and forests of the eastern United States.

29.See the Seven Wonders of the World. While you'll only be able to see one of the ancient wonders, you can still take in the modern wonders, or embrace the natural wonders, all of which can be equally awe-inspiring.

30.Become a sailor on a tall ship. Becoming a sailor on a tall ship is one way to embrace your love of the sea, while seeing ports in the U.S. and around the world to boot.

31.Run away with the circus. As silly as it might sound, if you have a skill or talent that might be valuable to a circus, traveling from town to town with one really could be a life-changing experience.


Get an education while you see the world when you try out these ideas.

32.Learn a language in a foreign country. These days, knowing another language can be a huge asset to your career and there's no better way to do it than with complete immersion. Head to France to learn French or China to learn Chinese for an incredibly valuable and educational gap year.

33.Learn how to do something new. Just because you're not in college doesn't mean you can't take classes. Use your gap year, wherever you choose to spend it, taking classes in art, cooking, dance, or whatever else interests you but isn't applicable to your future career.

34.Explore the ruins of an ancient culture. One of the most awe-inspiring experiences you can have learning about history is by seeing the ruins left behind by an ancient culture. Head to Peru, Egypt, Greece, China, or dozens of other history-filled destinations for a thoroughly educational and inspiring experience.

35.Take an extended sailing trip. There are a number of different companies that offer classes on a ship, so you can learn while sailing to and exploring the world's most amazing port cities.

36.Make a documentary. If the idea of making a documentary during your gap year excites you, consider signing up for the Brown Ledge program that trains students on documentary technologies and works to explore different cities in the U.S. using them.

37.Study a foreign culture. Don't be an armchair anthropologist! Get out there and do research in the real world, studying people, places, and cultures around the world while you're taking time off from school. You may eventually be able to adapt your research into a stellar final thesis. If you can't afford to go away, you can also study people in your hometown.

38.Research in the Galapagos. For many, spending six months to a year in the Galapagos doing research and working with conservationists sounds like a dream come true. If it appeals to you, contact the Darwin Foundation and you could just be spending your gap year in these amazing isles.


Athletic types will love these ideas for amazing gap years.

39.Train for an athletic event. If you've always dreamed of taking part in an Ironman or maybe even heading to the Olympics, a gap year can be the perfect time to train and get in the best shape of your life. Even better, you can earn money while training others in the sport of your choice.

40.Bike through a country. Travel can also be a serious workout if you explore by bike. Pack up your wheels and head abroad to see the world by your own power.

41.Surf the world's best beaches. Aquatic types can spend their gap year catching waves at some of the world's best surf spots.

42.Pick up a new sport and practice like crazy. Always wanted to be a skater? Feel the need to be able to shoot a bow? Your gap year offers ample time to build these skills.

43.Ski your way through your gap year. There is plentiful skiing the world over, and for dedicated skiers, a gap year may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hit the slopes in places like Canada, Switzerland, Chile, and even China. You can even get training to become a ski or snowboard instructor, a skill that you can use to earn money while in college, too.


Use these ideas to make your gap year a deeply spiritual and moving experience you'll never forget.

44.Go on a pilgrimage. One of the most famous pilgrimage routes is the Camino de Santiago, which thousands of pilgrims, some religious, some not, still walk or bike each year. You can follow this route or one of the dozens of other pilgrimage routes around the world for a purpose-driven and empowering way to spend your gap year.

45.Go on a yoga or meditation retreat. Whether you choose to stay close to home or travel halfway around the world, a retreat of this nature can help you build focus, find your purpose, and calm your mind.

46.Fulfill as many lifelong dreams as possible. You likely won't have a time in your life when you're as free, healthy, and fearless as you are during your gap year, so make the most of it by fulfilling some of your life dreams. Some may be big, like seeing the pyramids, and some may be small, like swimming at night, but whatever they are, go for them!

47.Head to a kibbutz. Learn to work in a communal setting by taking part in a kibbutz in rural Israel. Before you start, you may even have time to see some of the country's most holy sites.

48.Help promote peace. Get in touch with an organization like Volunteers for Peace to find out how you can spend your gap year helping to promote peace in locations around the world.

49.Take a spiritual journey through India. India has long been the destination for those in search of spiritual answers. Whether you find a guru or simply take in the sights and sounds of this diverse and fascinating country, you're bound to learn more about yourself in the process.

50.Visit the world's holy sites. No matter your faith, visiting some of the world's most famous holy sites is a deeply moving experience that may just help you find guidance and inspiration for your future