Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Learning Loss: A National Dilemma

As the summer break quickly approaches in the Northeast I have come across various articles focusing on summer learning loss and the negative impact that time off has on students.  In 2010 Time Magazine published an article that clearly articulated The Case Against Summer Vacation.  Even though there is a great deal of research on the loss of learning that occurs during the summer I am perplexed by the fact that many schools and parents are not doing more to prevent this.  Here is a video that shares some stark statistics as well as a few great strategies that parents can utilize at home.

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As a district we have always assigned summer readings (view this years assignment here).  This year we are taking it a step further as we have developed assignments in both Language Arts and Mathematics to lessen the summer slide while retaining a focus on specific skills and concepts learned throughout the past school year.  The math assignments developed by my teachers can be found on our Math Department web page.  When I reminded the students of their summer assignments at our academic awards ceremony yesterday many parents in attendance began to clap and cheer.  This provided some nice validation in terms of our shift towards implementing summer learning assignments.

As a result of a recent $10,000 donation to New Milford High School all students in grades 9-11 have access to Study Island in mathematics and language arts for the next three years.  Certain 12th grade AP students will also have access in the following AP courses: Chemistry, Biology, U.S. History, Calculus AB, English Language & Composition, and English Literature & Composition. The expectation going forward is that teachers will develop standards-based assignments for all students to sharpen and retain skills, review concepts, and get a taste for the content to be learned in upcoming courses.

I am really interested to learn what other schools and educators are doing with their students over the summer to reduce and/or prevent learning loss.  More importantly, how do we construct meaningful, relevant, engaging assignments that the students will want to complete? We all can agree that this is a major problem across our country that the traditional school calendar of 180 days has created for us.   If you have developed successful programs, projects, or assignments PLEASE SHARE!  In the meantime here are some articles that I have come across that present some great strategies for reducing summer learning loss:

Preventing the Summer Slide with DIY Tech and Science Projects

Using the Calendar gap to Narrow the Achievement Gap

Preventing the Summer Slide in Reading

National Summer Learning Association

Preventing the Summer Slide in Math Skills 

50 Websites and Apps to Keep Students Learning Over the Summer


  1. Good morning Eric, At our elementary school this summer we are offering home access online to our math, several reading programs, and Discovery Education accounts. In addition to those, we sent home instructions for accessing my web 2.0, edu-games, math, science and reading bookmarks that the student have enjoyed all year. We motivate them to make use of these resources by issuing summer challenges and rewards in September. I make myself available to all the families over the summer and check on their progress often. I will send little notes to assure them that I'm watching their progress and they love leaving me notes on our Wallwisher wall. I haven't updated my Web site yet but it will contain all the opportunities I've listed here so that students can easily find them. Check back in a week or so to our computer lab home page: to see how we "stay connected" and encourage summer learning in K-6.

  2. Just because some kids summer learning loss in the summer, it doesn't mean that teachers, administrators, and parents have to. Try DrDougGreen.Com for Bite-Sized Self-Development. Keep up the good work Eric.

  3. You are right, kids do loose a lot of learning over summers. I think you should point out to parents who have iDevices to educational apps like Splash Math( It has been recommended by lot of teachers and parents for summers and I personally love the app. It covers whole concepts according to core standards. Unfortunately, it is just for grade 3 at the moment, but there are lot of other apps which cater to specific topics. We need to make feel children that they are not spending summer just studying, so educational apps that have games in them can be very crucial for this.

  4. Eric, thanks for sharing what your school is doing and the links to resources. At Graded, The American School of Sao Paulo, our HS students only have summer reading assignments in English and Portuguese. My son, a middle school students has summer reading plus he is working on math modules through Khan Academy and his teacher is his "coach". He's only doing this because he will be taking honors math next year.
    I guess what bothers me most about these things is that they are more of the same types of learning experiences. They just continue school learning. Unofficially, our students are going to camps, taking university summer programs and traveling. I see these as much more interesting learning experiences. My son and daughter have started a blog that they are writing in Portuguese (they are learning the language) and they are sharing stories about their summer vacation. They seem to be excited about this opportunity and they're really focusing on language development. This project was not mandated by the school and they won't receive a grade on it. I guess you could say that my wife mandated it for them. I'll look at some of the resources that you list to gain more insight into what others are saying, but it seems to me that the best summer learning comes from interest. The experiences may not be language or math related, but they certainly can be valuable. Blair

  5. article that you fit quite interesting to read & give another value to me

  6. Couldn't agree with you more. Learning should not stop during the Summer. Not to be biased here, but a great way to enhance learning over the Summer is to focus on what the student wants to learn. Let your student's develop their own interests and develop their own education over the summer, either by taking classes or by hiring a tutor that specializes in the subject your child is interested in.

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  8. Thanks for taking the lead on this Eric. It is very common to see "summer school" providing students who fail courses the opportunity to make them up in a short period of time. I don't see, however, as many opportunities for students to continue their learning. I do believe students need quality family time and down time, but 2 months is too much time off. It all comes down to providing students "opportunities" in my opinion. The opportunities should not simply be a continuation of school, but chances for students, teachers and parents to explore new concepts, ideas and learning. Reading should always be included!

  9. Thank you Eric for bravely stepping into summer/family time. Our school has always assigned 2 works to read per grade level with annotations. Our AP students all have assignments as well. We do use Study Island for Math and English at the MS levels-but will only use it for summer tutoring purposes. We do offer summer school for MS students in June, and summer tutoring for two weeks for those who were not proficient on benchmarks this school year.

    The NMSI program in the state forbids any kind of summer assignments.

  10. Sadly many students (and teachers) see a school year as something which we survive. After survival comes rest. Lost in this time of testing is the love of learning and pursuit of growth. When it comes to summer growth our district has sadly opted out. Fortunately our students live in a district of wealth and many students will be involved in summer camps and travel but all are provided by parents not the school district. The school shuts down for the summer and admin turn off their electronic devices.

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