Slowing Down the Slide: A Research-Based Approach to Summer Learning

  • Posted By: Alika Gillard
  • July 1, 2020

Summer vacation provides opportunities for outdoor recreation, quality time with family, and relaxation. Although summer is a time for recuperation, it is important to engage in learning in order to retain knowledge acquired during the school year.

Decades of research have shown that students are prone to learning loss during the summer months when structured learning may not be an everyday occurrence. Commonly referred to as the summer slide, this learning loss can hinder months of hard-earned math, reading, and writing gains.

This year, it is likely that a “normal” school year and summer vacation may be on hold due to remote learning, social distancing, and travel restrictions. Recent research has raised concerns about the potential learning loss for students during the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent study estimated that students may return to school with only 70% of overall learning gains from the previous school year and about 50% of the learning gains for math. After a particularly challenging end of the school year, students may need extra support during the summer to ensure that they stay on track for the upcoming school year.

Fortunately, research has shown that learning loss can be mitigated with the right academic and social support during the summer months.

What is the summer slide and why does it happen?

Although the summer slide is common among elementary, middle, and secondary students, it is not inevitable. There are several ways students and parents can take actions to retain school year learning during the summer with the right motivation and planning.

The summer slide refers to the learning loss that occurs during the summer vacation months between school years. Learning loss during summer vacation requires students to engage in weeks of review once they return from summer break.

One recent study involving over 3 million students found that summer reading loss is related to the amount of knowledge gained during the year. In other words, the more a student gains during the year, the greater the risk of knowledge loss in the summer months. Students are susceptible to learning loss in the summer because they are not recalling important information learned during the school year. If a student had a big year of learning new conceptual and procedural skills, it is even more important to focus on reviewing and retaining that information during the summer in order to promote long-term learning.

While student agency and engagement in their own learning process is important, a parental role in summer learning can help combat summer learning loss. Parent engagement can motivate student learning, reinforce positive habits, and keep students on track to make the most out of the summer months.

What can parents and students do to slow the summer slide?

Although the summer slide is common among elementary, middle, and secondary students, it is not inevitable. There are several ways students and parents can take actions to retain school year learning during the summer with the right motivation and planning.

One important factor that determines how much a student is impacted by the summer slide is the student’s self-driven learning over the summer break. This is a perfect time for students to explore new concepts and delve deeper into topics of interest. Here are our recommendations to keep students engaged in independent learning throughout the summer:

      Listen and learn!

      Podcasts are typically free and cover a variety of interesting topics for all ages. Podcasts are great to play while traveling or doing other activities, and can be enjoyed by the whole family.

      Interest-based reading.

      Curiosity is important in learning, especially during the summer. To keep students engaged and motivated to learn, encourage them to choose what they are most interested in reading. When students take ownership of their reading, it helps build an internal drive to learn. Check out our summer reading list for inspiration for students of all ages.

      Continuous learning.

      The best way to combat the summer slide is to make learning a part of the everyday routine. When making a plan for the week, incorporate math, reading, and writing into the schedule. Math learning is particularly susceptible to learning loss, so it is important to practice math skills everyday.

    While it is important to incorporate independent learning during summer break, students can also benefit from structured summer learning programs. Research has shown that summer programs can be an effective way to retain school-year learning through the summer months in math, reading, and writing. Fortunately, there are many online summer programs that offer high-quality virtual programs. In fact, many of our partner schools offer online summer enrichment programs to help students learn through summer break.

    How Test Innovators Supports Summer learning

    With Test Innovators, learning doesn’t have to end with the school year. We support both parents and students in this process by providing curriculum-aligned learning materials, helpful resources, planning, and expert advice. With school out and many summer activities canceled, a new opportunity is open for students to continue learning during the summer.

    Learning Materials

    Although our academic support is geared toward test preparation, our curriculum-aligned materials are beneficial for all students. We have hundreds of math, reading, and verbal-reasoning practice exercises, and our detailed analyses and personalized study plan make it easy to identify and work on areas for improvement.

    Support for Parents

    Our system supports both students and parents in summer learning through self-guided tools and weekly updates for parents. Our online platform allows students to take initiative in their learning to understand new concepts, gain strategies, and practice effective study habits through engaging tools. To help parents stay involved in their student’s progress, we send weekly progress updates and share a plethora of free, informative resources.

    Personalized Planning

    Our intuitive system builds a personalized plan to fit each student’s learning needs. After each diagnostic test, our system recommends specific practice activities to help students strengthen knowledge in targeted areas for improvement. Each practice test serves as a check-in point and gives students the chance to recall past information they have learned, which helps support long-term learning.

    Expert Advice

    For students who need more individualized support and structure, we have a solution for that too. Our expert tutors are experienced in creating structured, targeted learning plans and helping students stay motivated and on track. Our one-on-one tutoring provides the guidance and support students need during the summer through individualized learning with engaging lessons and personalized practice. To learn more about Test innovators tutoring and connect with a tutor, schedule a free consultation here.

    If you’re looking for other ways to stay academically engaged this summer, test preparation is a great solution. Starting test preparation this summer will give you time to gain familiarity with the test you’ll be taking, learn test-taking strategies and skills, and improve. Check out our test prep offerings.