Some of the 99 available summer programs are mandatory and others are voluntary, with options including cooking classes and field trips.
Though language barriers and distrust can lead parents in immigrant communities to sometimes prohibit their children from attending these types of programs, New York has seen demand grow to the point that some schools have waitlists despite being able to accommodate 1,000 additional students this year.
As of the fall of 2015, English learners made up 9.5% of the U.S. public school student population. California has the largest share of EL students at 1.3 million (21%) of the state’s student population. In Nevada, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Alaska, Kansas and Washington, at least 10% of the student population are ELs.
Spanish is the most common native language, while Chinese was among the five most common languages spoken at home in 32 states. It’s also important to note that 72% of those who claim to speak English “less than very well” were born in the United States and are U.S. citizens.
Complicating this issue is the fact that an estimated 15% of those students qualify for special education, but the needs of this group are not well understood. It is difficult to discern whether students are struggling because of their language barrier or if they have an actual disability. The EL students are also more likely to live in poverty with little access to resources, which increases their academic risk.
If a district is unable to provide summer EL camps, public libraries may also be able to provide a connection. Research indicates that summer reading is one of the best ways to prevent the summer slide. Allowing students to watch English-speaking television, such as children’s public television, will also continue to expose them to the language during the summer, and online educational games provide another option.