It’s often the case that following the long summer break, students return to the classroom, seemingly having forgotten what they learned the previous academic year. This phenomenon, known as “summer slide,” is real, and could be magnified, say educators and parents, by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s a genuine concern. In today’s post, we’ll look at the current situation and share tips to help slow – or even prevent – academic loss.
“Summer slide,” then, refers to loss of academic achievement during vacation. Research shows that following summer break, students retain 70% of what they learned the previous year in Language Arts − and around 50% of what they learned in Math. A recent NWEA study projects that based on the length of school closures that started in early March, this summer’s academic slide could be even greater than that of previous years. In some instances, students may lose their ability to recall up to a full year of academic work!
Not every student will be affected this dramatically, of course; outcomes will vary. Because of the pandemic, students attended in-person classes for ¾ of the year and, in an ideal world, will continue to learn in a virtual setting for the remaining quarter. However, we know this won’t be the case for all, as many face health, economic, technological challenges, and perhaps more independent self-study rather than teacher-led learning. For some students, extended summer slide seems inevitable. But it doesn’t need to be.
Establishing a daily summer schedule that incorporates regular academic tasks is essential to preventing learning loss. While it’s arguably easier to allow students unlimited free time – and, indeed, tempting with the lack of organized activities due to pandemic restrictions – research shows that children and adults thrive in a structured environment. Renowned educational leader Mawi Asgedom notes that mastery of skills leads to “authentic confidence,” and that mastery comes from learning something new rather than reviewing what has already been learned. Since data already indicates that literacy and math content areas are the first to suffer from summer slide, it’ll be important to establish routines that include time for both. Families can pick a “common read” and start a book club – great for stimulating dinner table conversation! Students, with parental assistance, should review math concepts taught this spring, identify those not yet mastered, and continue to work on those areas daily with excellent support from platforms like Khan Academy, or virtually with a face-to-face math coach. Beyond daily math and literacy practice, students can further challenge themselves with an online course or competition. Virtual learning opportunities abound in numerous subject areas!
Of course, time for relaxation and individual pursuits is important; Asgedom urges students and their families to find these “sunshine” activities that still offer opportunities for learning and growth. Learn to cook, to sew, to play chess. Athletes can find creative ways to stay in shape and share their workouts virtually. Artists and musicians can also share their talents online. Learning shouldn’t stop after the last day of school, and this year, more than ever, it’s important to maintain routines conducive to daily learning. Not only will this reduce the risk of summer slide, but it will also foster creativity, confidence, and emotional well-being in students of all ages.
Do you need ideas to get started with summer learning? Give us a call – for over 30 years we’ve been helping students avoid summer slide. From reinforcing what students have previously learned to jump-starting their new academic year, we can support continued learning. We offer courses for credit in all subject areas and levels, including AP, and our tutoring can target specific interests and areas that require additional support. We also offer expertise in project planning that will guide your student through a productive summer.
This vacation period looks different than previous ones, but with patience and planning, its potential is limitless!