Slide Into Summer

Lately, you may have heard the phrase "Covid Slide"—a play on words for Summer Slide, which is another play on words for Summer Learning Loss. Summer Slide refers to students losing skills they have learned throughout the school year, simply because they take a summer break. Covid Slide refers to the growing concern that kids will experience even greater decline in achievement after their additional months of distance learning. 

You may wonder if Summer Slide is even real. Is it just a worry? Does it apply to everyone? What about learners who struggle but want a rest from practicing the skills that are hard for them? Can they, at least, have a break?

Summer Slide . . . Is it real or imagined?

Child going down a yellow slide

I was talking to my trainer the other day about this very idea. I posed this question: If my Rooted Team mate, Tracy, who has abs of steel, took the summer off from exercise, and I, who have abs of wet macaroni, also took the summer off from exercise, would our decline be the same? His answer: Tracy would fare better. Her stronger skills would also decline, but her strengths would give her better protection. In other words: the strong get weaker, but the weak get a LOT weaker. The most important point: strong or weak, everyone gets weaker.

Exercise and brain sciences agree on the maxum: Use it or Lose it!

There is research dedicated to Summer Slide that backs up the theory. According to Megan Kuhfeld, in her article “Summer Learning Loss: What We Know and What We’re Learning,” Summer Slide is significant, even before the additional educational struggles presented by Covid-19. Kuhfeld cites the following statistic:

In the summer following third grade, students lose nearly 20 percent of their school-year gains in reading and 27 percent of their school-year gains in math. By the summer after seventh grade, students lose on average 36 percent of their school-year gains in reading and a whopping 50 percent of their school-year gains in math. In other words, summer learning loss increases with age through elementary and middle school – a troubling trend . . .

These stats are shocking and should be encouragement to all parents and students to keep reading, writing, and reviewing math throughout the summer months. Continuing skill practice makes sense, especially for kids who have learning struggles. 

Imagine the school year is a giant hill to climb:

Two children begin the year at one level, and slowly throughout the year, they progress up the hill to the same level.

Child A stops, and over the 10-12 weeks of summer that child heads back down the hill, about a fourth of the way down.

Meanwhile, Child B keeps walking, gaining about two months of more progress.

At the start of the next school year, those two children are even further apart. Child A has to reclimb much of the same hill of the prior school year, before even beginning the ascent for the new school year. Meanwhile, Child B is not only ready for the new year, but is likely starting at a higher level than expected.

Now let’s add Child C and D to our mix of climbers. Both have learning struggles and started out a year behind their peers due to learning delays. These two were only half way up the hill by the end of the year.

But Child C kept walking, making slower progress due to learning struggles, but eventually meeting up with Child A, who has descended back down the hill.

Child D stopped and walked back down the hill, at a faster pace due to learning struggles, and arrives back to the same place he started the year before. Child D has made little to no net gain in skills.

We also know that socially disadvantaged kids often start out further down the hill, and then follow a similar path as the struggling learner. For disadvantaged kids, any time off matters, as catching up becomes further and further away.

To prevent summer slide, kids don’t have to engage
in the same content, such as traditional
social studies, history, or science.
But they do have to use and practice
the same basic skills: reading, writing, and math. 

I used to have my kids engage in projects or topics that interested them, reading and writing about dinosaurs, zoology, or Jane Austen. But I admit I wasn’t very creative about keeping up their math skills. For that I got a workbook. So I asked a math teacher, Rachel Slezak, to give me some math ideas for summer. Be sure to listen to our Ride that Summer Slide podcast to hear Rachel’s great ideas.

Let’s not succumb to Summer Slide! Let’s invest in ongoing learning and “ride that summer slide” successfully into fall.

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