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Combatting ‘Summer Learning Loss’ With Workbooks

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For most students, there are only two more weeks left in the school year. The summer break is something many kids look forward to but it often comes with a price.

Educators call it “summer learning loss.”

It’s when students forget some of what they’ve learned during the school year, during those three months off.
But we know that some Minnesota school districts are getting creative in combating it — and one option appears to be working, and expanding.

For decades, research and surveys have shown that most students do not retain all that they’ve learned across the school year.

So each fall, teachers end up spending weeks re-teaching material.

For the last few years, parents in St. Paul and 22 other school districts have signed up for reading and math workbooks, designed to keep students at their grade level.

School teachers in Grand Rapids, Michigan created the workbooks, but they are used nationally.

There’s one for each grade, from kindergarten to eighth — one workbook for math, one for reading.

“The workbook is about an hour a week. So some youth will do it in just one day and be done, and some will spread it out, for about 10 minutes a day,” said Shaun Walsh, a community education coordinator for St. Paul Public Schools who oversees the GRASP program. “So if you are doing reading and math, it would be two hours a week.”

And when the work is done, students mail their answer sheets in to GRASP and it gets corrected by a staff member and returned.

“What we mostly hear is that families like how flexible the program is,” she said.

Next summer, St. Paul is letting go of GRASP and offering its own workbooks. They’re in development now with a goal of being better, and less expensive.

“We are really excited about having the youth input and our school district’s input and providing something that is more accessible cost-wise, but also more relevant and engaging for youth,” Walsh said.

Darren Yerama is the principal of EXPO Elementary in St. Paul, and said summer learning loss is real.

“So you spend the first part of the year doing some catch up, remembering what you did last year, before you start the new learning for your new grade level,” Yerama said.

He’s seen the benefits of the summer workbooks, especially when it comes to math.

“Absolutely, so what it does is help your kids stay fresh with those math facts and that number sense. So when they come back to school that review doesn’t have to take as long. They can get right to that new learning,” he said.

It’s not too late to register and purchase those summer workbooks. But you have to order them online, directly from GRASP in Michigan.

They cost $38 for one subject or $63 for both reading and math, per student.

If you try to go through St. Paul schools, you’ll find that the registration is closed.

Again, next summer St. Paul plans to offer its own workbooks for reading and math.

They want to reduce the cost so that more families can take part. They have close to 300 families who’ve purchased those review workbooks through GRASP this year.

The 22 other districts ordering from Michigan include Bloomington, Hastings, Elk River as well as Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan.

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