Superintendent's Message PDF Print E-mail

June18, 2014


Welcome to summer break! I hope your family has a safe, energizing, and fun respite from school during the next few months. As the district’s lead educator, however, there is one seasonal danger lurking in the warm weather that I must warn you about: Summer slide.

No, I’m not talking about the popular playground toy! Summer slide occurs when children do not actively learn during break, and they “slide” backward in their knowledge and skills. This is particularly devastating for low-income students, as research shows that more than half of the achievement gap between them and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. Think of it this way: Their rate of learning may be the same during the school year, but a child exposed to summer educational experiences advances one month while a child not exposed to summer educational experiences falls back by two months. The gap widens. By the end of fifth-grade, the child with no summer learning is about three years behind—three years!

The issue is so critical that state lawmakers just formed an Expanded Learning Opportunities Council to create a comprehensive plan to stop summer learning loss. We are very fortunate to have a seat among the select group: School board member Mary Fertakis will be representing Tukwila children.

We don’t have time to wait, though, because summer is already upon us. Let’s join together to make sure we stop summer slide now. Our schools have laid the foundation. They are offering a strong summer-school program with emphasis on supporting academic strugglers and English language learners in literacy and math. A group of incoming freshmen will learn study skills while preparing for Advanced Placement coursework. High schoolers will be able to retrieve credits and move ahead. At the middle level, incoming eighth-graders have an opportunity to participate in a forensic lab at Swedish Hospital through the Seattle Science Foundation’s Kids in Medicine program. In addition, we just began a program that will expand to provide 12 new books to every kindergartner through second-grader to read over the summer.

But schools can’t go it alone. We need the help of every family to reinforce learning and good brain habits. Even if your children do not participate in any formal programs, please make sure they:

1. Read and write every day
  • Check out books at King County’s Foster Library, and join the summer reading program there to earn fun rewards.
  •  Read aloud to children and have them read aloud to you.
  •  Subscribe to a new magazine for your children.
  • Allow your children to stay up later than normal at bedtime as long as they are reading.
  • Buy postcards for children to send to friends and family describing their summer fun.
2. Use math every day
  •  Practice multiplication by having every point in a soccer game (or other athletic competition) worth 5 points (or 6 or 7 …).
  •  Have children make change at restaurants and stores.
  • Have children use fractions while measuring during cooking or divvying up a pizza.
  • Count cars while driving (or pine cones while hiking…).
3. Get outside and play
  • Physical activity is good for the brain! Swim, walk, bicycle—play, play, play!


School break and fun can be synonymous with learning, and I want all students to show up in September ready to resume class after a summer full of hands-on educational experiences.  

Have a wonderful (and educational!) summer break.


In service,

Dr. Nancy Coogan