You know that practice makes perfect – so what happens when you don’t practice for an extended period of time? Traditional school has been disrupted now since mid-March due to the coronavirus crisis, which means that while we usually talk about a “summer slide” due to learning loss over the summer months, this year students face an even steeper decline in academic performance – now known as the “covid slide.”
No matter the level of effort you’ve put into distance learning this spring, the reality is that nearly all students have already suffered a lack of growth they would have seen in academic skills and content knowledge. So, while many students view summer vacation as a time to completely separate from academic pursuits, summer 2020 stands out as an especially crucial time to keep kids engaged in educational activities to prevent them from falling further behind.
What Does Summer Slide Mean?
Summer slide (or summer learning loss) is a term used to describe the effects of summer vacation on student learning, specifically the decline of a student’s academic skills and difficulty transitioning back into the classroom environment. Every year, parents find themselves in a struggle between how to combat the summer slide while still giving their children the break they need to return to school feeling refreshed and ready to learn.
Many schools, both public and private, provide summer reading lists and other suggested activities to keep students engaged in fundamental academic skills throughout the summer months. Depending on the student’s level of performance, this may be enough practice to keep skills sharp over the summer. However, for students who have learning difficulties or are finishing the school year with some gaps in learning for one reason or another, more focused summer learning may be necessary to prevent them from falling further behind during the summer.
What About Covid Slide?
With the coronavirus, teachers and schools had to make a shift to virtual instruction without any preparation, leaving parents in many cases on their own to keep up their kids reading, writing, and math skills, as well as grade level content knowledge. Students, parents, and teachers alike have been working the learning curve of new technology together – so even with a distance learning program in place, nearly all students across the country have experienced some degree of learning loss.
So, what has been traditionally considered “summer slide” is now being referred to as the “covid slide,” encompassing the spring into the summer months. Covid learning loss reflects the gaps in academic growth due to disruptions of learning following shelter in place orders and compared to what students would have achieved in a regular classroom setting even with online learning. It also takes into account the lowered expectations for student work that have accompanied distance learning, including optional homework and pass/no pass grading.
And while we still don’t know what returning to school will look like, the likelihood is that students will continue to see a reduction in classroom instruction time when school resumes in the fall, meaning the decline in student achievement will continue on indefinitely.
Is Summer Slide Real?
With any skill, lack of practice for a prolonged period of time reduces your competency. Just like with running, speaking a foreign language, or handwriting (have you noticed your awkwardness with a pen or pencil after all your texting and typing these days?!), skills like reading, writing, and math fact recall and computation diminish when students aren’t actively sharpening them.
A 1996 review of 39 different studies serves as the foundational research on summer slide. The review found that students lose about one month’s worth of education during the summer, as determined by Fall vs. Spring test scores. In addition, the review found that the effects of summer learning loss were more significant on math than reading, and the negative effects of summer break proved more detrimental with increase in student grade level.
More recent analysis points out that summer activities of that research period (the 1970’s and 80’s) were largely different than they are today. This is important because the review found that the impact of summer learning loss was affected by the opportunities students had to practice their academic skills during the summer. Advances in technology mean that students have greater access to information, practice materials, etc. – which is good news for you and your child!
How to Prevent Summer Learning Loss & Covid Slide
Summer learning loss is very real, but it’s also very avoidable. Our simple suggestions for how to prevent summer learning loss will make sure that your child is able to keep their skills sharp while also enjoying their hard-earned vacation!
- Read every single day: Reading is a great way for your child to continue learning all summer long, often without even realizing it! Your child doesn’t need to read textbooks or even the classics for reading to be beneficial, either. If there is a topic of particular interest to them, summer reading is a great opportunity for them to explore it. You can also read aloud with younger children to keep them building vocabulary and listening comprehension. Even a few pages a day can help keep the summer slide away.
- Review skills and activities: Going over everything your child learned during the school year won’t make summer feel like much of a break for either of you, but you can pick and choose! Dive deeper into topics your child is interested in and use them to practice important skills like reading comprehension and writing. If your child likes cooking, encourage them to research recipes to try – and have them double ingredients for leftovers to add a little math practice.
- Incorporate summer learning loss games: When we hear the term “educational games”, most of us think of computer games or apps. While these are certainly an option, studies have shown that spending time outside has a positive impact on children’s ability to focus and absorb information. Outdoor activities can promote learning and still be so much fun that kids don’t even realize they’re maintaining their academic skills!
- Volunteer: Depending on the age of your child(ren), volunteering can be a great way to exercise social skills while giving back to the community and having college-worthy application essay experiences. Ask your child about causes they care about and search for organizations that are actively supporting those causes in your area. You can also look for opportunities to volunteer as a family. And social distancing shouldn’t get in the way of volunteer efforts. There are plenty of opportunities to conduct volunteer activities from home!
- Tap into virtual tutoring programs: A structured summer learning program led by academic professionals is one surefire way to make sure your child makes up for covid learning loss and doesn’t succumb to summer slide. At La Jolla LearningWorks, we offer personalized, one-on-one summer programs to help students strengthen their academic skills over the summer and ensure a smooth transition back to school in the Fall. Regular progress reports ensure that everyone is on the same page to best support your child’s learning. Subjects offered include: reading, writing, spelling, math and problem solving, executive functioning skills, test prep, and more.
View our complete summer program descriptions.
Now, more than ever, with students out of their regular learning environments for the covid crisis, disruptions to schooling are taking a toll on students’ academic growth. While we already knew that the summer slide makes for a rocky transition back into the classroom and difficulty gaining momentum at the beginning of the new school year, covid learning loss is now adding to this year’s deterioration of academic skills during the summer months.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take throughout the summer to mitigate the effects of the covid-into-summer slide. Simple daily activities like, reading, participating in learning games with your child outside and inside, and volunteering from home are some strategies to help your child keep their skills sharp while still allowing them to enjoy their vacation.
Summer learning programs like the ones we offer at La Jolla LearningWorks are also a perfect way to make sure your child doesn’t fall further behind during the summer. Learn more about how our summer programs can help your child avoid further learning loss this summer and start the new school year off right – no matter what school in the fall looks like!