When the traditional American school schedule breaks stride for summer vacation, students stumble. Numerous studies conducted over the course of decades all show significant learning loss over the summer. Based on test scores, that loss typically equals at least one month of learning for reading and as much as two or more months for math.
Education experts suggest the disparity lies in the fact that reading comprehension, problem solving and theoretical math are conceptually-based skills while spelling and arithmetic computation skills require students to acquire “factual and procedural knowledge.” Cognitive psychology studies indicate that it is easiest to forget facts and procedural skills.
The damage caused by knowledge loss is cumulative.
As students move through their school years, knowledge loss increases. It can put students an entire grade year behind. The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) says middle school students “are especially vulnerable to achievement dips” caused by learning loss. And by the time they reach high school, these students can become disillusioned – less likely to go on to college and at greater risk of dropping out.
Two steps forward, one step back.
That’s how the traditional school year can feel to teachers. An NSLA study conducted in 2012 showed that, in order to help students recover from summer learning loss, teachers must start each school year reviewing work covered the previous year. Two-thirds of teachers say this takes 3-4 weeks, and another 24% say it takes 5-6 weeks. This redundancy effectively shortens each school year by an equivalent number of weeks, further exacerbating the problem.
Traditional school districts are experimenting with various models to ameliorate the negative educational effects of summer vacation, by:
- Adding days to extend the school year.
- Replacing the long summer vacation with more, shorter breaks.
- Developing innovative, engaging summer school alternatives that replace the traditional “remedial” emphasis.
Nonetheless, as of 2014 more than 90% of U.S. students were still attending school on a traditional calendar, in large part because many schools find it virtually impossible to implement change when the “right” to summer vacation is culturally ingrained.
Online schooling promotes continual learning.
Year round courses
With traditional summer school, students essentially stop what they were doing during the regular year, attend a different type of “school,” then return in the fall. This may be more stimulating than no summer school, but it is not the same as continual learning. Researchers say year-round learning is far more effective in overcoming learning loss.
Because online schools operate year round, students can make continuous forward progress. There is no learning loss, so there is no wasted time back-tracking. Furthermore, innovative, engaging learning is the norm with online schooling, where coursework is delivered in a variety of technology-enhanced formats.Go to school anywhere
Although online students learn continuously, they are not “stuck in school” all year long, tethered to an artificial classroom schedule. They can study from any location that has internet service. With that capability, learning and enrichment are no longer disparate opportunities but happen simultaneously, intertwined in ways that help students understand the practical side of their coursework.
Travel doesn’t preclude study, whether it’s a few days, a couple of weeks or a family move to a foreign country.
Learning beyond the classroom
The only time traditional students can participate in science or math camp or outdoor school is during the summer or spring break. Online students can pursue special personal interests all year long, right along with meeting core learning requirements. That includes participating in league sports, art, music or other non-academic learning activities.
Online schooling also enables parents to maintain vacation and other family schedules without interrupting their child’s education. For many families, the flexibility of online study may actually allow more “quality time” participating together in educational and enrichment activities.There is no doubt that continual learning gives every student the strongest possible knowledge foundation. For that reason, and because it is also adaptable to any child’s abilities, online learning has become an increasingly desirable choice for both students and parents.