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New Project Forum report on Principal Preparedness to Support Diverse Learners

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Journal Article: Schools, achievement, and inequality: a seasonal perspective

Journal Article » Schools, achievement, and inequality: a seasonal perspective


Education, Student achievements, School children/Social and economic status, Summer vacations


Alexander, Karl L.; Entwisle, Doris R.; Olson, Linda S.


2001, Summer


Are there socioeconomic differences in the seasonality of children's learning over the school year and summer months? The achievement gap across social lines increases during the primary grades, as much research indicates, but descriptive analyses and HLM within-person growth models for a representative panel of Baltimore school children demonstrate that the increase can be traced mainly to the out-of-school environment (i.e., influences situated in home and community). School-year verbal and quantitative achievement gains are comparable for upper socioeconomic status (SES) and lower SES children, but summer gains, when children are out of school, evidence large disparities. During the summer, upper SES children's skills continue to advance (albeit at a slower rate than during the school year), but lower SES children's gains, on average, are flat. This seasonal pattern of achievement gains implies that schooling plays an important compensatory role, one that is obscured when achievement is compared on an annual basis, as is typical. Policy implications of the seasonality of learning are discussed, including support for preventive measures over the preschool years and for programs, possibly including calendar reforms and summer school, to support disadvantaged children's learning year-round. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.