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Summer Learning Loss

Every summer, many students lose ground in the subjects that they have spent the year studying. This phenomenon is known by a number of names, but the one we are going with here is Summer Learning Loss. The following paragraphs will discuss the facts about Summer Learning Loss and provide some ideas for parents and educators as to how it might be alleviated.


Summer Learning Loss describes the situation where students start the new school year at a lower academic level than they were at at the end of the previous school year [1]. During the school year, students develop skills and habits that build on top of each other as the year progresses. Over the summer, however, this development stops. For many students, the summer is not a time when academic skills are worked on, which causes these skills to regress. The result is that, at the beginning of the following school year, teachers must spend time reviewing and going over ground that was already covered in the previous year. By some measures, up to six weeks are spent re-learning old material [2].


Studies on Summer Learning Loss focus on losses in reading and math. An average student will lose approximately one month of learning skills and knowledge every summer [3]. The losses in math (average of 2.6 months lost) are more severe than losses in reading (average of 2 months lost) [4]. Learning Loss becomes more pronounced at higher grade levels [5].


There is something important to note. Not every student experiences Summer Learning Loss. Enough do that it is seen as more than an isolated problem, but there are students who avoid this phenomenon. The question one might ask concerns the discrepancy - why do some students experience Summer Learning Loss while others do not? Summer Learning Loss is inefficient and costly, but most critically it is not inevitable. How can we make it so that fewer students experience it? Well, it is complicated.


Summer Learning Loss is most prominent in students of lower socioeconomic status [6]. While students at lower socioeconomic levels experience losses at predictable levels, students with middle- or high-income families may experience gains over the summer [7]. The reason for this seems to be related to the activities that children from different backgrounds participate in. The activities that different children participate in vary greatly. Higher-income families tend to have more access to camps, music, classes, and travel; these experiences are enriching to students and contribute to knowledge gains [8]. Better access to programs that advance knowledge will likely lead to less Summer Learning Loss across the population, but that is not the only option.


Newer research on Summer Learning Loss indicates that, while camps and trips help, the best preventative measure is family involvement [9]. Two or three hours each week of enriching activity can altogether prevent Summer Learning Loss [10]. One of the best ways to prevent Summer Learning Loss is also one of the easiest and most enjoyable - reading! Reading five books a summer has shown to be comparable to enrolment in summer school [11], and the best part is that kids can choose which books they want to read.


In addition to reading, there are a number of other options. These methods of preventing Summer Learning Loss are sourced from the Oxford Learning article referenced in the citations at the bottom of the article [12]. Technology is always advancing, and learning technology is no exception to that. There are applications and even games that help students remain engaged. Platforms like KhanAcademy [13] and CrashCourse [14] are helpful for students at various levels looking to reinforce skills and knowledge.


Another fun way to stay engaged throughout the summer is with art. There are so many ways for kids to get creative, both alone or with others. Journaling is a fantastic way for kids to practice their writing and literacy skills while being mindful of their lives and environment, but there are many ways that kids can be creative and it is important to find what works for you! Fostering creativity is a way for kids to be more successful in managing their emotions [15].


Another great way to keep away Summer Learning Loss is to get involved in learning as a family. When everyone is learning together, it feels like less of a duty and more like an opportunity. Whether you are cooking together, watching an educational movie, or playing a brain-strengthening game, kids are having a good time connecting and learning. If it is possible given finances and availability, students also benefit from visits to museums and exhibits where they can experience new things in an environment made for learning.


Summer Learning Loss is an unfortunate phenomenon. Until we figure out how to implement systemic change to get rid of it, it will remain a concern. However, I hope that I have shown you some useful and tangible ways to reduce its impact in your life.



[1] Oxford Learning, “Summer Learning Loss Statistics (and Tips to Promote Learning All Summer Long)” (07 June 2019), Oxford Learning, online: <https://www.oxfordlearning.com/summer-learning-loss-and-how-to-prevent-it/#:~:text=Often%20referred%20to%20as%20summer,of%20the%20last%20school%20year.&text=It%20is%20a%20good%20idea,with%20during%20the%20school%20year>.


[2] Refer to Note 1.


[3] Paul W. Bennet, “The Summer Learning Slide: Would Guided Study Programs Make a Difference?” (20 June 2014), Educhatter, online: <https://educhatter.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/the-summer-learning-slide-would-guided-study-programs-make-a-difference/>.


[4] Refer to Note 1.


[5] David M. Quinn & Morgan Polikoff, “Summer Learning Loss: What Is It, and What Can We Do About It?” (14 September 2017), Brookings, online: <https://www.brookings.edu/research/summer-learning-loss-what-is-it-and-what-can-we-do-about-it/>.


[6] Refer to Note 3.


[7] Megan Kufeld, “Summer Learning Loss: What We Know and What We’re Learning” (16 July 2018), NWEA, online: <https://www.nwea.org/blog/2018/summer-learning-loss-what-we-know-what-were-learning/>.


[8] Leah Schafer, “Summer Learning Happens at Home” (13 June 2017), Usable Knowledge, online: <https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/17/06/summer-learning-happens-home>.


[9] Refer to Note 8.


[10] Refer to Note 1.


[11] Refer to Note 1.


[12] Refer to Note 1.


[13] Visit Online at <https://www.khanacademy.org/>.


[14] Visit Online at <https://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse>.


[15] Refer to Note 1.


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