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Summer Learning Loss

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

What is summer learning loss? A decline in student academic performance between the spring and fall school term. The slide is believed to widen the achievement gap between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

There are contrasting views on summer learning loss. However, both perspectives are attempting to answer a question with important implications for all education stakeholders. In addition, both sides of the summer learning loss divide acknowledge that students over the summer do not necessarily participate in activities that reinforce what they learned during the school year. Still, the extent to which students' academic skills decline is not replicated in the available research.

The last school year was unfamiliar to education stakeholders. The pandemic exposed challenges in the educational system and the preexisting inequalities in the system. Some schools didn't have the resources to efficiently transition from one learning environment to another. Teachers, students, and school administrators had to scramble to adapt to online learning. All things considered, the transition from face-to-face learning to online learning was seamless for some students once the technological kinks were remedied.

However, with all the progress made, online learning didn't necessarily meet the needs of all students. Consequently, there are concerns about possible learning loss for some students, delaying their academic progress. Moreover, the worries about learning loss might be heightened because of the summer break.

Why is the summer break so concerning? Some experts assert students' knowledge and intellectual skills decline during the summer. For example, research suggests that students experience a decline in their math computation and spelling during the summer break.

Other factors contributing to their learning decline are:

  • socioeconomics

  • Grade level

  • Age

  • Time spent reading during the summer break

  • Access to educational summer programs

Consequently, we are likely to see some of our students exhibit some learning loss. Students spent most if not all of the recently concluded school year in online learning. However, the online learning format didn't necessarily suit students who needed one-on-one attention, individualized academic preparation or learn best through interaction.

Let us be clear, this writer is not bashing online learning in favor of face-to-face learning. The writer is merely highlighting that for some students' online learning was difficult to navigate. Some had inconsistent internet access, no internet access, and no access to the appropriate technological devices. These students will need additional support to bridge the documented gaps in their learning during their time participating in online learning and the potential summer learning loss. Online is an effective learning platform, just not for all students.

Since online learning affected some students and there is a possibility of summer learning loss. There is reason to find a suitable solution. The experts cannot agree on how to remedy the suspected learning loss. Some have suggested extending the school year, reteaching lessons when students return to school in the fall term, and others have suggested:

  • Tutoring to address specific learning loss and other areas of limitation

  • Summer School

  • Hire college students in your community to tutor your child

  • Create a learning co-op with other parents in the neighborhood

  • Schedule time for reading 30 - 60 minutes daily or every other day

  • Make available to your child, age and grade-level reading materials

  • Explore community-based organizations that may have funding available for tutoring or provide tutoring on a limited basis

  • Home-based literacy activities that promote reading and research

  • If possible, purchase summer bridge workbooks for your child.

  • If possible, find out from your child's teacher, your child's specific area of limitation, and available resources to minimize the learning loss

  • Some parents may not have the time or skill to assist their student but may link the student with the appropriate resources in their community

As the parent of a school-aged child, you get to choose what's in your child's best interest based on available information.

N. B. The contents of this blog post are not prescriptive. The intent is to share information.

Stay Naturally Curious


Alexander, K., Pitcock, S., & Boulay, M. C. (2016). The summer slide: what we know and can do about summer learning loss. Teachers College Press.

Kuhfeld, M. (2019). Surprising new evidence of summer learning loss. Phi Delta Kappan, 101 (1), 25-29.

Mawoyo, M. & Vally, Z. (2020). Improving education outcomes in low-and middle-income countries: outcomes-based contracting and early grade literacy. Journal of Learning for Development, 7(3), 334-348.

Storey, N., & Slavin, R. E. (2020). The US educational response to COVID-19 pandemic. Best Evid Chin Edu. 5(2), 617-633.

Zaromb, F., Adler, R. M., Bruce, K., Attali, Y. & Rock, J. (2014). Using no-stakes educational testing to mitigate summer learning loss: A pilot study. Research report. ETS RR-14-12. ETS Research Report Series.

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