#072 Summer is the Key to Academic Success with David Blobaum Transcript


Lisa Marker Robbins 00:38

The lazy days of summer are almost here. And while that’s a gift to you and your team being too lazy can lead to summer slide, a term used to describe learning loss. And if your team doesn’t use their time proactively, it can put them at a disadvantage as compared to their peers. How summers handled has a ripple effect on your student’s future academic success, GPA, which affects college admission and showing what they know on future AC tn as the t test. My guest today is a friend of the podcast. He’s an education advocate and a CT SATs test prep expert serving families in New Jersey. David blow bomb was first on the podcast with episode number 60. Back in March when we discussed SATs changes from a paper to a digital test in 2024. He missed that episode, you’ll definitely want to go back and listen to it for today. However, David is going to shed light on what the research shows is a differentiator in the wealth education gap. And it all boils down to how your team uses any of their school breaks, not just summer, you’ll leave with tips to create a summer plan for your team while still giving them the much needed break they deserve. I’m Lisa marker Robbins and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a freight conversation. Welcome back, David.

David Blobaum 02:14

Thanks for having me, Lisa.

Lisa Marker Robbins 02:15

Ah, it’s fantastic to have you on that previous episode was amazing. And it’s just helping our families navigate change. And this time instead of being reactive towards changing and testing, and college admissions and all the things with the college bound journey, we’re going to talk about being proactive with summer. I know that in this podcast episode was totally your idea I want to give all the credit goes to you. Because you have done the research that shows how students are handling these breaks, not just summer, I’m assuming but all breaks when they get that much needed break from school is really a differentiator in their future success. So let’s dig into the context of the data first.

David Blobaum 03:02

Yeah, so I was first put onto the idea of how important breaks might be by in Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers. So fantastic. And so I’ll just read a part from page 257. And he says, virtually all of the advantage that wealthy students have over poor students is the result of differences in the way privileged kids learn while they are not in school. And then he goes into the data. But one of the reasons that this gripped me personally and before I go into the data is it matched very, very well with my own life path. So I didn’t grow up wealthy. And I don’t know why when I was really young, I just didn’t care about school at all. And I was like, literally failing third grade.

Lisa Marker Robbins 04:02

Okay, irony of this University of Chicago graduate. And now a test provider is funny.


And you’ll see, like, you mentioned, ripple effects, more than a ripple effect, as you’ll see. So when I was basically failing third grade, and in fourth grade, we got hit with something like two or three recesses in a day. But I had to go with just a couple other kids and spend one of my recesses doing extra reading because I could barely read. And we’d be reading into a recorder and then we’d have to listen to ourselves, not be able to read it was it was brutal, brutal. And it still was not enough to get me to try hard in school for whatever reason. But the summer after fourth grade, I read the book hatchet by Gary Paulsen, and I absolutely fell in love with it. It’s about a boy who gets stranded in the wilderness. and survives. And literally I’ve been telling people my whole life that all I wanted to do was go live in the wilderness. Hence, I was not interested in school. But I fell in love with this book. I read over 50 books that summer. Oh, wow. And I started fifth grade. And it was insane. I was one of the top students in my class, I went from nearly failing to one of the top students in my class and I like I was doing any I was reading all that to become with one of the top students in my class. And literally, that carried me the rest of my life and put me on a radically radically different trajectory. And the reason why now in hindsight, I can see why that changed my life so dramatically, is because of the profound impact that reading has on a student’s academic ability, which I can go into later. But that’s why that Malcolm Gladwell data gripped me so much, because I saw that in my own life, one summer had dramatically changed my entire life. And so it made that statistic sound less insane to me, because his statistics are insane. So he only looked from first grade to fifth grade, but from first grade to fifth grade 24% of what the kids of the wealthy learned was over summer. Wow, repeat that. Yeah, so 24% of all they had learned in those roughly four years or five years was less than their time off. Exactly. Yeah. And for those the the kids or the non wealthy, they essentially didn’t learn anything at all over summer. In fact, they had a small slide. And so when he looked then at the gap in education between students from different income groups, 89% of the gap was because of the differences in what they learned over the summer. And so, it is, it’s absolutely staggering, because we focus so much on unequal opportunity in schools. And ironically, maybe what we should be focusing on, I mean, we should be focusing on that as well. Right? But but, you know, a huge part of it should very likely be ensuring that all students have access to good academic enrichment on their breaks, and particularly over the summer, because it looks like that’s where a majority of the gap is coming from.

Lisa Marker Robbins 07:34

Wow, that’s a mate. So now our listeners have high schoolers, right? And so this is routed back in, I mean, you and I could go like, Oh my gosh, there’s so much he could have done with this study in this data. And, you know, leaves us wanting more, right? So, extrapolate this out for if I’m a mom of a freshman, sophomore, junior, and I’m hearing this, and, you know, my kids are all in their 20s. And I’m going like summer can be brutal as a mom, because I feel like I’m fighting my kids on, they truly do want those lazy days of summer. And they know that they do need a break as well. And I’m listening to your data as a mom that recently had teenagers, and I’m going okay, so if I’ve got a 15 year old, and you’re talking about those elementary years, and clearly, that was transformative for you, because you go on to go to the University of Chicago. So you obviously became a stellar student, then after this transformation. Let’s tie it in for me as a mom of a teen.


Absolutely. And let’s go back to 1972.

Lisa Marker Robbins 08:51

Before you were born, yeah, sure. Before I was born, I was born for the record. So you know, it’s okay.


So in 1972, there was a landmark study from a Stanford professor. And it’s called the marshmallow experiment. And the marshmallow experiment is you put a marshmallow in front of a student, or in front of a child, really. And you tell them, hey, if you can wait to have that Marshmallow, and so like I’m back, you can get two marshmallows, and, again, ripple effects. So those students who could delay gratification and avoid not eating the marshmallow, those students who could wait longer, they had more success in life. In fact, on average, those students who could wait 15 minutes 15 minutes for a child is insane. But those kids who could wait 15 minutes, they ended up on average with 210 points higher on our SATs scores. There’s massive and so for those parents, this is good and bad news. The bad news is since 1972, there are a lot more things that are making it even harder to delay gratification, because we’ve gone from books to to YouTube, which we’re no longer to now, tick tock videos, which are seconds. So it is extremely hard for all people, but especially children and teens to delay gratification. And that is something that if we want to set them up for success, we have to be instilling in them. So it’s very, very tough. And I mean, I talked with a lot of parents about, hey, you need to take the video games away, because the average teenage boy spends two hours on video games every day. And they have no idea how much that is holding back their success in life. Now, we need kids to be kids, right. But you also need to instill in them this ability to delay gratification. And so you might have to be the bad guy. And that’s not fun to say or fun to hear. But it’s worth it. And the easiest way to do that is to try and get them hooked on books. Because through books, it doesn’t really matter what you’re reading, as long as you’re reading even It’s for fun, it can be action novels, it can be romance novels, it doesn’t matter. The reading is the most important skill to develop for academic success, because it touches upon all academic subjects. So you become a better reader. And of course, you become better in English class. But you become better in history class number one, because you can read faster. Number two, you can read, you can understand more of what you’ve read. And number three, you can retain what you read better, because you just become a better visual learner. And I work with students on the SATs and AC T, every almost every day. And It shocks me. And it would shock anyone if they really understood how little teenagers understand of what they read, where you can read a sentence, and it makes perfect sense to you. You understand what it means. And they will not get that same meaning out of it because they don’t read a lot. And so,

Lisa Marker Robbins 11:55

you know, you say that I want to ask the question. And then I want to hear where you’re headed with this. But if I’m the mom of a teenager, and I want to kind of test that at home, because I think sometimes you’ll say that and I might feel like well, not my kid, you know, I see my kid reading and I maybe make the assumption that they are comprehending what they are reading. And you’re saying like, yeah, even the good students is what I’m hearing don’t always aren’t always comprehending at the level that they should what’s like a sneaky way that I could test that or just just ask them? Should I just give them a paragraph? Or how can I look at that at home? Because I think a lot of our listeners might think Not My Kid, right?

David Blobaum 12:42

That’s a great point. And I mean, my mind goes to the SATs and AC t because that’s my profession. But I mean, literally, you could Google official practice AC T, you’ll get an AC T, just give your kid an AC T reading passage, not the whole Reading section, just one passage, and then eight minutes and 45 seconds, that’s how long they get on the real test, you can do the same. And what I find is that because I interview a lot of people to become tutors, and what I find is adults do great at the AC T reading, because over their lifetime, they’ve read a lot more teenagers, the average teen is getting about 50% of the questions wrong. And it will blow you away that they read over the passage and didn’t know the main idea or why it was written. They won’t understand the purpose of a given paragraph. And you can even then ask them like, hey, you know, this question that you got wrong? Can you explain like, what was this question asking? And a lot of times they won’t even be able to understand what the question was asking. And you can say, hey, explain these answer choices to me, and they might not understand the answer choices. And he explained to me this paragraph that it references and they don’t understand the paragraph. So it’s not confusing at that point why the students aren’t getting the questions, right. It’s obvious, they don’t understand what they’re reading.

Lisa Marker Robbins 14:00

Well, that test two is vary on the AC T at least it’s very tightly time, like the pace and to become A Faster Reader that you know, is that balance between okay, you might be able to speed up your reading, but are you still comprehending when you’re reading at a faster pace, like that’s what they have to hit. And to get that where those two things intersect faster pace, increase comprehension is just gonna come naturally as they begin to read more. Right?

David Blobaum 14:31

You’re right. And actually, I guess you could do the passage on time as well. Just so then there’s no confounding factor. Hey,

Lisa Marker Robbins 14:38

let’s do two passages. Let’s do it. You know, as I’m sitting here, thinking about this, I would say to a parent, get one of those reading tasks. There’s four passages on a reading test. Do the first one timed, do the second one untimed and go from there so you’re seeing kind of a little bit of both like comprehension Understanding and critical thinking as well as pace because you’ve got to read more to pick up that pace.

David Blobaum 15:07

We’re gonna have to make a reading test together. I love it. What right? Yeah, quick way, you know, 20 minutes, hey, here’s how you can actually see what are your kids understanding? And you’re gonna,

Lisa Marker Robbins 15:20

I’m not even kidding. Let’s do that. Because what our listeners don’t know is I’ve got my short sleeve shirt on, but we are in winter doing that. And we have time to put this together and we’ll drop the link in the show notes. Let’s do it. Okay, so we’re making a commitment. And I promise that those of you that are listening now, it’s because we committed to doing something for you, David, and Lisa, and February that we’re going to give to you to set your family up, set your team up for success over the summer. Okay. So we digressed because I asked you a question, but let’s go back into where you were headed with this data, the journey, the ripple effect, pick it back up.

David Blobaum 16:02

Yeah, absolutely. So not only does it help, does reading ability help students in English, but again, it helps them in history, it helps them in biology, it even helps them in math, because all tutor students from other countries where English is their second language. And some of them are absolutely incredibly brilliant at the math, but they’re still getting math questions wrong, because they can’t interpret the word problems, which makes sense. So some of the wording on those word problems is really hard. So it will even touch upon and improve a student’s math ability, likely as well. So that’s why reading is the most important skill. And luckily, it’s also the most inexpensive. I mean, when I read those 50 books, my parents bought zero of those books. My dad’s a pastor, and my mom was a teacher assistant for special kids with special needs. money was tight. So hey, you love reading? That’s great. Walk to the library. Right and

Lisa Marker Robbins 17:04

add cybers still exist everybody?

David Blobaum 17:07

Exactly. Yeah. So this isn’t something that only the elite can do. This is something that all students can do. Now, of course, there are other academic enrichment programs that, you know, probably the wealthy are doing. So it’s not like I’m saying don’t do those are, those are great as well. But if all you can do is read at the library, that is an amazing, amazing advantage that you can bring yourself.

Lisa Marker Robbins 17:33

Why, you know, as you’re sharing this, I totally agree with you. And I’m thinking about, you know, inside my lodge Career Clarity course, when we’re in module four, are going in, and we’re curating experiences. And to get up close and personal with stuff. Sometimes we’re curating them through courses, extracurriculars. Like, you know, you’re saying there’s a lot of pay to play out there. But how you’re curating your extracurriculars, the courses that you select in high school, and even demonstrating some intellectual curiosity through going and doing like a free online class over summer, right? You know, one of our previous episodes that I’m thinking of was freshman year for free with Dave advice. And his modern states offers free courses for students that, you know, you were talking about, like, okay, the wealthy are maybe going paying this money, but there are, besides walking to the library, and reading books, there are other free avenues, I’m going to link to the freshman year for free courses, and they pay for your CLEP exam can save you on college, by earning credits while in high school, and even in college, using that. So those are other things. But as I’m sitting here, thinking even about the families that are in my launch course, with me and my flourish community, I’ve got lots of middle upper middle class and a fluid families in there, right. So socio, there’s a cost of the course. So not everybody can afford the course. So it’s going to be middle and upwards that are inside the course. But I still hear from many affluent families, my kids not motivated, my kid won’t participate. All of those things. So then I go back and I think about, okay, so the data that you brought us that Gladwell had, and outliers, was the average for all fluent families. And I would argue that there’s a lot of affluent families from his study that had kids and parents who were like, kind of going at it and struggling through the unmotivated kid and the parent not wanting to push too hard on the kid to do something as simple as read. I wonder what the data would look like.

David Blobaum 19:51

I agree. I mean, as you referenced before, there are his data leaves us wanting more, and I would have loved if he had separated out, Hey, these are the affluent families who didn’t do academic enrichment over the summer, these are the ones who did, I think you would have found maybe at least double the effect. So maybe 50% of what they learned by the eighth, by fifth grade was over summer. So it’s really dramatic.

Lisa Marker Robbins 20:19

So So anybody, any of our listeners who have a future or current PhD, they they’re going to do some research, just pick up the ball from this study and take it and do that next level of what David and Lisa want to see so that we can get that data. So what is is we’re kind of wrapping up here. Give just as practical advice is, what would you say to our listeners as, as we exit this episode, and what you would encourage them to have happen? I think we know they need to read that any parting words.

David Blobaum 20:54

So what I would say is, we’ve talked about reading for academic success, but I would like to broaden it to life success. So there, if you develop a love for reading, you’ve likely developed a love for learning as a lifelong learner. And what I found in my own life, I mean, I’ve done an executive MBA, but you know what, I learned more from my executive MBA, reading books on business, and you have the smartest people who have ever lived, who have written books about what they know. And so if you’re interested in a particular topic, you can become a profound expert on that topic, just by reading books, you can give yourself an amazing education. So it’s more than just success in school. It’s about success in life, becoming a lifelong learner, and has all these, again, ripple effects, even beyond learning. Those who read more, they tend to have decreased levels of stress, they have decreased cognitive decline, they’ve decreased Alzheimer’s rates. So it’s just this confluence of these amazing impacts of having a loved to read.

Lisa Marker Robbins 22:03

I love it. Well, David, thank you for that idea for this particular episode. That’s all yours, I can’t wait for us to put together our freebie that we’ll have for our families. And so that you can kind of assess where your students at and you know, really showing that context to even your eighth ninth 10th 11th grader of where they are in having this discussion, maybe sharing this podcast episode with them, might leave them not arguing and digging their heels in so much to just hang on to those lazy days of summer. So David, thank you.

David Blobaum 22:39

Thank you so much.

Lisa Marker Robbins 22:44

As a lifelong educator, I’ve always known the value of reading. And yet this data, information and discussion with David freely shed new light on the topic. I listened wishing I’d heard all of this when my three were in elementary school, or even high school, and you my friend are in the perfect position to influence your teens summer plan. I’m a bit envious if I’m honest. Of course, David, I want you to include reading in that plan. So to set you up for success and provide context with your team. We kept our promise, we developed a short reading assessment that can be completed in less than 20 minutes by your team. Remember, on top of having your student take this reading assessment and score it, look for clues that they understand what they read, and be sure to check out their pace on their reading. So this is my college bound tasks I’d like you to complete this week. In addition, as an added bonus, I put in some high interest book titles to help your team gain momentum on their summer reading. Just head to flourish coaching co.com forward slash read to get my n David’s complimentary reading assessment and our book recommendations for your team. If you want to actively help close the wealth education gap, and set all students up for academic and future success beyond high school graduation. Share this episode not only with your friends this time, but perhaps your child’s school and on social sharing. Following the podcast rating and reviewing helps us resource more students to launch into a successful future. And honestly, that helps society. Thank you for listening to the College and Career Clarity podcast, where I help your family move from overwhelmed and confused to motivate a clear and confident about your teens future