On the way home, I heard a story on NPR about a study done at UC Berkeley about the “performance gap” between black kids and white kids in the public schools. I can’t say much about the details of the report — it comes out tomorrow — but one of the people interviewed for the story, Ross Wiener of The Education Trust, noted a finding in this general area of research that screams out for an explanation.
The finding: while white students tend to lose ground during summer vacation (at least with respect to the sorts of performance easily measured with standardized tests and similar assessment methods, one assumes), black kids actually gain ground over the summer. (The text in the webpage for the NPR story says “minority kids lose less ground when they are away from school”, but listen to the sound file linked at the top of that page — Wiener really does say they gain ground.)
So, what could explain this unequal benefit from summer vacation? (For bonus points, how would you test the potential explanations?) And, is this a finding that will play any role at all in the decisions of districts considering eliminating summer vacation in favor of year-round instruction?