Summer Learning Loss And How to Lessen it

Published On: Monday, April 1, 2019|Categories: Learning Strategies, Parents, Summer Strategies|

As Americans, we often take for granted that the 9-month long school year is simply a thing of fact. We enjoy our leisurely summers, planning long vacations to the beach, overdue family reunions, and long days of fun in the sun. Teachers use this time to recharge, rest and begin their planning for the fall semester.

Generally, students and teachers alike need this time to have a well-deserved break from the tedium of day to day school stresses. We sign our children up for summer league sports, send them to summer camp, and take them to swimming lessons.

Summer Learning Loss

Academics often get put on the back burner and we forget to participate in activities that foster academic growth. We have become used to having a summer vacation and because of that, we think nothing of the two or even three months of time our children spend away from an academic environment.

However, when schools are not in session there is significant evidence to suggest students are losing a vast amount of their learning. Researchers note that students’ achievement test scores in the fall are often significantly lower than they were in the spring. Originally, our traditional school calendar was arranged to give agriculturally bound students the summers off to help their families with the harvest. Despite our growth in suburban and urban areas, we still remain on this antiquated schedule.

The NWEA reports distressing patterns in how this learning loss occurs and determines that as students age, the percentage of their loss over the summer increases. So, as students progress from elementary school into middle school, the amount of information and knowledge they lose over summer drastically increases.

They report, “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…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.”

Students are losing nearly a month’s worth of teaching over their summer break, losing more math skills than reading, but the amounts of both losses are quite worrisome. Harris Cooper notes in his 1996 research that the explanations for this loss could be related to socioeconomic status and/or availability of resources to practice skills over the summer. For instance, it is fairly common to find a free, summer reading program at your local library, but more difficult to find a place to practice math skills.

A 2013 study of summer learning loss indicates that students who participate in either home-based learning programs or school initiated programs show improvement in both their math and reading retention over the summer school break. James S. Kim and David M. Quinn of Harvard University deduced that

“children who participated in classroom interventions, involving teacher-directed literacy lessons, or home interventions, involving child-initiated book reading activities, enjoyed significant improvement on multiple reading outcomes”.

The Takeaway

This means the impact of participating in a summer intervention had a positive impact on a student’s ability levels on their fall assessments.

At the Tenney School, we cannot stress the importance of staying cognitively active over the summer months. We encourage you to seek ways to keep your students’minds engaged and their spirits seeking answers to questions. If you’d like to ensure your student is practicing their math skills and increasing their reading comprehension over the summer we would love to talk to you about our various summer school options.




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 Research66(3), 227–268. https://doi.org/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 Research83(3), 386–431. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654313483906

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