Picture a school community in a high-income neighborhood. You can imagine a triangle between teachers, parents, and students. Kids are learning through multiple pathways, so even when school lets out for the summer these children sustain progress.
In low-income communities, educational pathways are broken. Our system focuses exclusively on the segment between teachers and students, writing off parents as unwilling or unable to help. This creates a two-legged stool that tips over every summer. Students in these communities lack continuous access to learning at home and school, resulting in chronic summertime reading losses that accumulate to a two-year academic wedge between low and higher-income peers by 4th grade. Research finds that ⅔ of the achievement gap among high school students is attributable to summer learning loss in elementary school.
A student who cannot read on grade level by 4th grade is four times more likely to drop out of high school than a child who does read proficiently by that time. Add poverty to the mix, and a student is 13 times more likely to drop out than his or her proficient, wealthier peer. Only 13% of Philadelphia 4th graders are proficient in reading; 10% earn a college degree. Low educational attainment translates into underemployment and financial hardship. Philadelphia’s adult illiteracy rate of 22% matches precisely the city’s poverty rate of 22%.