Sent to Time Magazine, August 2, 2010
Time says that "well-off American students may be falling behind their peers around the world" ("The case against summer vacation," August 2). Not so.
Studies show that American students attending well-funded schools who come from high-income families outscore students in nearly all other countries on international tests. Only our children in high poverty schools score below the international average. Our scores are mediocre because the US has the second highest percentage of children in poverty of all industrialized countries (22%, compared to Denmark's 2.5%). This strongly suggests that our educational system has been successful; the problem is poverty.
The summer slump in reading among children of poverty has been linked to lack of access to reading material. Children from low-income families read less because they have little access to books at home, at school and in their communities. Public libraries in high-poverty areas are not well-funded, and have fewer materials and are open fewer hours than those in low-poverty areas.
The most obvious, important, and economical first step toward eliminating the summer slump in reading is better funding of public libraries in high-poverty areas and more support for librarians who know what children really like to read.
American students from well-funded schools who come from high-income families outscore all or nearly all other countries on international tests:
Bracey, G. 2009. Education Hell: Rhetoric Vs. Reality. Alexandra, VA: Educational Research Service.
Martin, M. 2009. Eggs or eggheads: Which does the U.S. economy really need? Arizona School Boards Journal, Winter. Available at: http://www.susanohanian.org/show_commentary.php?id=688
Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.
Percentage of children in poverty: figure 1.1, Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-Being. UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre. Report Card 7
The summer slump in reading among children of poverty has been linked to lack of access to reading material:
Heyns, B. 1975. Summer Learning and the Effect of School. New York: Academic Press.
Kim, J. 2003. Summer reading and the ethnic achievement gap. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk 9(2): 169-188.