Untapped Power of Summer to Advance Student Achievement


The future of any society depends on its ability to foster the health and well being of the next generation. Today’s children will become tomorrow’s citizens, workers, and parents. When we invest wisely in children and families, the next generation will pay that back through a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship. When we fail to provide children with what they need to build a strong foundation for healthy and productive lives, we put our future prosperity and security at risk.

What does it really take to shape a generation of solid, decent, well-rounded young people who will support their families, strengthen their communities, and uphold the democratic values of a civil society? Fortunately, the last decade has witnessed an explosion of discoveries in the neurosciences that point toward powerful new ways of understanding what our children need in order to learn and develop well.

We now know, for example, that cognitive, emotional, and social capabilities are inextricably intertwined throughout one’s life. Emotional well-being and social competence provide a strong foundation for cognitive abilities, and together they are the bricks and mortar that comprise the foundation of human development and learning. In other words, learning is not just an academic activity that is confined to the classroom; it is part of a complex and ongoing developmental process. And yet, the public discussion today about how to provide children with what they need to thrive in adulthood focuses almost exclusively on what happens to them in school. In fact, according to a large and growing body of research, our nation’s schools are doing a remarkably good job in fulfilling the role accorded to them—despite clear differential resources within and across schools.

This evidence, of course, flies directly in the face of conventional wisdom: that the nation’s schools are failing its children. We believe it is time to retire the knee-jerk impulse to critique our nation’s schools and focus instead on some important new insights that can facilitate both a new kind of public dialogue about learning and development and a new set of policies and practices that truly put all young people on a productive and enriching path to adulthood. New insights about when and where learning takes place come from a body of groundbreaking research on seasonal learning, which highlights the connection between a child’s summer experiences and his or her success in school and beyond. In so doing, the research underscores the tremendous untapped potential of the summer months to level the playing field for all of our children.

Beth M. Miller, Ph.D. MMRA
Publication Date
Friday, July 29, 2011