I know what you didn’t do last summer


I know what you didn’t do last summer; the summer achievement gap

It is the beginning of May and my family and I are looking forward to a great summer. The schedule is a lot more flexible for all of us as my kids (ages 8 and 5) will be done with school, and my wife (a university professor) chooses not to teach in the summer. I’m an elementary school principal and have a 12-month contract, but will take a majority of my vacation days in the summer. Because the school year is a time of constant motion for all of us, we really look forward to making great use of the summer for fun, relaxation, and activities that we just don’t have the time to do from September through May.

So what’s on tap for the Rees family this summer?

We’ve got a great city library system in La Crosse, WI and will stop in once a week to get new books. I’ll read those books to and with my kids. We’ll get the kids together with friends from school and church. We’ll participate in the Barnes and Noble summer reading program and stop in for story time. My kids will likely get to buy a new book on each occasion we are at BN. We’ll spend a few weekends at Grandma Bobbi’s house on the lake. The kids will tramp along behind me as we explore the beautiful trout streams of southwest Wisconsin. I’ll explain to them how to differentiate between a brook trout and a brown trout. I’ll point out a caddis fly when I see one. We’ll stop at a gas station on the way home and share a big bag of peanut M&Ms. We’ll put a lot of miles on the canoe on the Black River and at Goose Island. We’ll likely do a few local camping trips and try out our new tent. We’ll make sure they write letters to their grandparents, aunts, and uncles. We’ll turn the kids loose on their bikes in our neighborhood. The kids will walk down to the neighborhood park behind the house and get some good exercise and have fun. At the end of each night, my wife and/or I will be home to give them a bath, read a goodnight book, and tuck them into their beds.

It should be a fantastic summer.

This isn’t a brag list. This isn’t an attempt to pat myself on the back for my parenting skills. This isn’t an attempt to goad other parents into carving out “quality time” for their own kids this summer. This isn’t oblivion about my relative privilege. This isn’t guilt about what I am able to do for/with my children.

This is my recognition that there are many children in my own school who won’t do any/many of these activities with their parents, or with anyone at all. There are many reasons why this won’t happen for these kids—reasons that are understandable, forgivable, inexcusable, solvable, tragic. The reasons don’t really matter. Some parents can’t and some parents won’t. The children won’t have these opportunities away from school, and it does have an impact on their learning and lives.

No amount of school reform will fix family inequalities, but schools will see these effects when students return to class in the fall.

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