Researchers are trying to figure out why low-income children lag behind their more privileged classmates in high school graduation rates and college attendance. Some of them think that the difference in children’s future academic success can be explained, in part, by their experiences during their summer vacations.

Sociologists Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle, and Linda Steffel Olson think the summer learning gap between lower- and higher-income children begins during elementary school. Higher-income children’s home environments are more likely to have access to magazines, books, and have their parents read to them, so the time they spend away from school is still educationally enriching. This gap accumulates over the years and results in unequal placements in college preparatory tracks once the children get to high school.

Karl Alexander says, “What we are able to do is trace back in time the disparities between the two groups of children, and to a very substantial degree, we trace the difference back to summer learning differences over the elementary school years.” The solution??No more summer vacations.

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