The Summer Slide, sometimes called Summer Learning Loss in more academic settings, is when children go backwards in their education and lose about a month’s worth of learning over summer break (Cooper, H., et. al., 1996). Researchers have done studies on students’ ability to remember information and they found out that without constant practice students’ calculation and spelling ability dropped (Cooper & Sweller, 1987).
When I was a high school teacher, I had a yearly struggle over this very phenomenon. Most school curriculum, mistakenly, assumes that students didn’t forget anything over the summer. The expectation is that they come into school and are ready to jump right into new material. Having experienced first-hand how wrong that assumption is every year, I had to balance reviewing past material with their actual curriculum. And every year, the reality was there wasn’t enough time for both. It is true that there were a few students that didn’t fall behind over the summer and were able to excel beyond their peers. However, many students struggle due to the summer slide.
Education researchers have been looking into The Summer Slide for decades now. They generally agree that it is real, and there are several proposed solutions for fixing it. The first, and the most obvious solution that researchers came up with, is to extend the school year through summer. Afterall, summer vacation was created around the year 1900 when about 85% of Americans worked in agriculture and needed their children to help them on the farm. Clearly, that’s not the case anymore since only about 3% of Americans are farmers now, but the schedule still has not changed (Association of California School Administrators, 1988). More importantly, you as parents can’t extend the official school year for your kids this summer. While this may not be helpful to you, it does explain why the summer break system is set up the way it is despite all of the drawbacks. However, the next couple of solutions I will go over can be helpful to you.
At this point I’ll bet you’re asking, “why not enroll my child in summer school?” Unfortunately, most districts don’t have a summer school program available for student enrichment. Back before I even started teaching, summer school programs for student enrichment were defunded in my local district. They were only for seniors that needed one or two more classes in order to graduate. Since I’ve moved out to the South Bay, I have looked into summer school programs at our local districts, but unfortunately, I haven’t found one that didn’t charge at least $1000. That one was through a private school, hence them getting away with charging. But that’s just the south bay. Your local district may have summer school or some other summer enrichment programs available.
However, for parents living near a district that doesn’t offer summer school or other programs for enrichment, let’s consider the third proposed solution for The Summer Slide; that is unofficially extending the school year. Any parent can do this using enrichment programs in math and English. One way for you to accomplish this is to enrich your child yourself. I’ve met plenty of parents that prefer to do that. It’s also simpler than you may think. Allington et. al. studied whether having books over the summer benefited children and were able to show that it did (Allington et. al. 2010). I do feel like I should point out that this doesn’t stop loss with math or other parts of English Language Arts. The main difficulty with this method is time. We’re all working adults, and as much as we love our kids and want the best for them, we don’t always have time to work full time, come home, write extra work for our kids, teach it to them, grade it for them, then go over it with them again. Yeah, that’s tiring to even write.
So we now know that children lose a month’s worth of learning over the summer, particularly in math, schools don’t run through the summer and most don’t offer summer school programs for enrichment, and it’s generally not possible for parents to become full time teachers for their kids while working full time. There is one thing that can help your kids over the summer, and that’s private summer programs such as summer camps, private tutoring, or learning centers. Cooper et. al. found in their meta-analysis that summer programs had a positive impact on students’ knowledge and skills (Cooper, H. 2000). While these programs do cost money, I have very rarely seen a learning center that will charge over a $1000 for attendance (Afficient Academy surely doesn’t), and many have very flexible hours over the summer, or special summer programs.
If you are now looking for a summer program now, I’m going to go over Afficient Academy’s program (full disclosure: I am currently employed by Afficient Academy). Afficient Academy offers two programs, a math and an English program. The math program is comprehensive from second grade through pre-calculus in high school. The English program has currently released grades two through four. It is an intelligent computerized program that picks an ideal starting point for your child to either review or excel depending on your child’s unique needs. What’s particularly useful is this program can be done in our learning centers and at home. Unlike other programs, you don’t need to schedule your summer vacation around this program. We charge $140 a month for unlimited access to our program and the learning center that you sign up at. There are eleven locations throughout the bay area.
To sum up everything I’ve written to you, The Summer Slide is a real thing. Your kids will lose part of their education, particularly their math skills, over the summer if they don’t have any enrichment. Research shows that enrichment programs over the summer will help stop students from losing progress over the summer and may even help your child excel.
Allington, R., McGill-Franzen, A., Camilli, G., Williams, L., Graff, J., Zeig, J., Zmach, C. & Nowak, R. (2010). Addressing Summer Reading Setback Among Economically Disadvantaged Elementary Students. Reading Psychology 31:5, 411-427.
Association of California School Administrators. (1988). A Primer on Year-Round Education Sacramento, CA: Author. ED 332 271.
Cooper, G., & Sweller, J. (1987). Effects of Schema Acquisition and Rule Automation on Mathematical Problem-Solving Transfer. Journal of Educational Psychology, 79(4), 347-362.
Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S. (1996). The Effects of Summer Vacation on Achievement Test Scores: A Narrative and Meta-Analytic Review. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 227-268.
Cooper, H., Charlton, K., Valentine, J. C., & Muhlenbruck, L. (2000). Making the most of summer school: A meta-analytic and narrative review. Monographs of the Society for Research Development, 65(1), 1-118. EJ 630 022.