There is an irony about calling out-of-school learning loss during the summer months “summer slide.” For youth, the summer is traditionally a time of great anticipation and joy with regular visits to local parks and pools. The slide features prominently in both of these recreational activities and is usually associated with fun. The “slide” as an analogy is supposed to represent the drop off in student test scores from spring to fall, which when graphed, often takes the shape of most slides. This year, the slide will be larger and steeper even though in the real world, our youth cannot actually ride slides right now, bringing the irony full-circle.
COVID-19 has tremendously impacted schools all across the United States. For students around the country, either “summer break” came as early as March or students were moved to alternative methods of instruction to finish the school year (e.g., virtual classrooms). For all students, the COVID-19 pandemic will result in more out-of-school time than traditional school years. Student learning loss during summer break, historically called the “summer slide,” is well-documented in the literature (Alexander, Entwisle, & Olson, 2007; Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay, & Greathouse, 2000; Kim & Quinn, 2013). Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds (low SES) tend to experience greater learning loss over the summer months, whereas, their more advantaged peers often maintain their learning levels or even continue to grow over the summer. According to a meta-analysis by Cooper and colleagues (2000), the time students spend away from school during summer break results in approximately one month of learning loss. However, the true effect size seems to vary depending on a variety of factors such as measure, dosage, content area, and student age (Von Hippel, 2019). A recent report by Kuhfeld and Tarasawa (2020) estimates that students will return to school for the 2020/2021 school year having made only 70 percent of a normal prior year’s growth on NWEA’s MAP reading and 50 percent of a normal prior year’s growth in MAP mathematics as a result of the current COVID-19 school interruptions. Regardless of the measurement, content area, age, or other student characteristics, it is reasonable to assume that wider gaps will exist between students in their knowledge, skills, and abilities next fall as a result of the COVID-19 interruption to the current school year.
When students return to school in the fall (in-person or online) with a wider-than-usual achievement gap, administrators will need a plan to address this issue. The Region 7 Comprehensive Center will release a series of five blogs to address each consideration and some of the important, related issues. The first blog (in bold below) discusses the possibility of extended learning opportunities to create a positive impact on the COVID-19 achievement gap.
- Develop extended learning opportunities
- Prioritize equitable access (Coming soon)
- Use ongoing assessment data to individualize instruction (Coming soon)
- Address students’ social-emotional needs (Coming soon)
- Increase efforts to engage families (Coming soon)
Joshua A. Melton, firstname.lastname@example.org
Evaluation, Region 7 Comprehensive Center
Research Associate, RMC Research Corporation
Special thanks to the R7CC Summer Slide Task Force team (Dr. Sheila Brookes, Ms. Rachel Goins, and Ms. Katherine Harmon) for their support and feedback.
Alexander, K. L., Entwisle, D. R., & Olson, L. S. (2007). Lasting consequences of summer learning gap. American Sociological Review, 72, 167-180.
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, 227-268. doi: 10.3102/00346543066003227
Kim, J. S., & Quinn, D. M. (2013). The effects of summer reading on low-income children’s literacy achievement from Kindergarten to Grade 8: A meta-analysis of classroom and home interventions. Review of Educational Research, 83, 386-431. doi: 10.3102/0034654313483906
Kuhfeld, M. & Tarasawa, B. (2020). The COVID-19 slide: What summer learning loss can tell us about the potential impact of school closures on student academic achievement. Portland, OR: NWEA.
Von Hippel, P. T. (2019). Is summer learning loss real? How I lost faith in one of education research’s classic results. Education Next, 19(14), 8-15. Retrieved from https://www.educationnext.org/is-summer-learning-loss-real-how-i-lost-faith-education-research-results/