Some of the students were focused on workbooks, sounding out words or working out math problems. Others were engaged in lively conversations with their teachers, who guided them through the steps to solve challenging problems or suggested strategies for breaking a big problem into smaller pieces.
It seemed like a typical school day at Holly Ridge Primary or Holly Hills Elementary – except for the fact that it wasn’t a school day and the students and teachers weren’t at school. Instead, it was a summer Monday morning and more than 20 Hollys students, including some former students who are now in middle school, were meeting with six Hollys teachers at the Glendale YMCA. They were working together to stop what’s called the “summer slide,” when students lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year.
Third-grader Muhammad Kanteh understands what can happen.
“If I just stay home and watch TV, when I go back to school, I won’t know anything,” Kanteh said.
Research shows that the “summer slide” is worse for students from low-income families. There is evidence showing those students can fall behind an average of two months in reading during the summer. At Holly Ridge, more than 77% of students qualify for free and reduced lunch, while at Holly Hills, nearly 82% of students qualify, which indicates a high number of low-income families. That’s why the Hollys work hard to stop the summer slide. The schools provide every student with a summer workbook.
“It maintains their math skills,” said kindergarten teacher Amy Armatas. “At the end of the book there are flash cards they can cut out and it helps them with their sight words and the things they need to know in the upcoming grade level as well as reinforcing what they learned last year.”
Teachers at the Hollys also encourage all students to read at least 20 minutes every day. In addition, teachers volunteer to work with students on Monday mornings in June and July.
Third-grade teacher Lorrie Yoshinaga doesn’t mind giving up some of her summer vacation.
“These are my kids. These are our kids and we want to see them succeed and be ready and not have that summer slide,” Yoshinaga said. “We tend to be a big family at the Hollys and that’s why we’re all here, because we love our kids.”
The students seem to appreciate what their teachers are doing.
“They’re kind to help us,” said fifth-grader Fatima Kanteh.
Parents, including Maria Martinez, who brought her second-grade son Ramiro and third-grade daughter, Angelica, to the Monday morning session, are also grateful for the teachers’ assistance.
“Ramiro needs help with the homework,” Martinez said. “I want him to continue to work on the responsibility of doing the homework.”
But the teachers credit the students, and especially their parents, with making a commitment to stop the summer slide.
“It says a lot about the parents that they are willing to get them here,” Armatas said. “They care about their kids and their education. It’s awesome!”