The Summer Slide – sounds fun, right? But in the education world, “the summer slide” doesn’t refer to a slippery waterpark ride, but to a student’s tendency to lose some of their academic progress over summer break.
This is a considerable challenge that teachers, parents, and school administrators face every year, both at the beginning of the summer, when they must try to create an environment to reduce or prevent this slide, and at the beginning of the new year, when they must try to reverse its effects.
And this year, it’s going to be worse than ever.
Slide not likely to slow down
This summer slide trend was first identified in a comprehensive study in 1996 that found achievement test scores declined by as much as 30 percent after summer vacation. More recently, an NWEA study showed that elementary students in grades 3–5 lost about 20 percent of the knowledge they had gained in reading over the previous school year, and about 27 percent of their math skills.
"When you factor in the additional learning loss from the pandemic, this year’s summer slide has the potential to completely derail the learning progress of students all over America."
Like the pause that occurred in the 2020-21 school year, the summer slide has the greatest impact on young children, who are still developing crucial learning foundations, and low-income families who have less access to resources and often, less time with their children.
Couple the yearly slide with what's transpired during the Covid-19 pandemic, and what you get is one big slippery slide educators must battle.
And now the COVID-19 Slide
Learning loss has been an obvious and expected result of the pandemic. It took time to establish a remote learning system, and even once it was in place, it did not address the needs of students as effectively as in-person learning (especially for younger children).
Recently, Horace Mann Educators Corporation completed a survey of nearly 1000 American educators in which more than half reported “significant loss of academic learning and disruption to social-emotional learning” in comparison to previous years. Almost all of those surveyed reported at least “some loss or disruption.” Thirty percent of the educators said their students were 1 to 3 months behind.
So, when you factor in the additional learning loss from the pandemic, this year’s summer slide has the potential to completely derail the learning progress of students all over America. Teachers, parents, and students are going to need extensive support to bridge this exacerbated gap, and a conscientious effort needs to be made to prevent additional learning loss this summer.
Here’s how your school communications team can play a role in battling the monster combo of the COVID-19 Slide and the Summer Slide.
Tips for battling the summer/COVID-19 slide
Your communications team will play an important role all summer in help families, teachers, and the rest of your community ensure student success, despite how the odds are stacked against us this year. Use these tips and share some of your own below:
1. Encourage access to books
Access to books and continuous reading is one of the number one indicators of academic success. It’s also a crucial weapon in the battle against learning loss over the summer.
Use your email and social media connections with families to ensure students are surrounded by books all summer long. Cross-promote events at local public libraries, museums, and community centers. If your school has a summer reading program, this should be blasted on all social channels. You could even highlight students who are participating in the program in your newsletter and on your social feed.
2. Promote all varieties of summer programs
From summer school to summer camp to virtual education resources, you need to make sure families have the right toolbox to battle the summer slide. Provide incentives for students to sign up for online reading or math challenges over the summer. Use your social channels to encourage parents to share about their students’ learning successes over the summer, or open the “floor” so they can discuss learning resources they’ve found with one another in the comments section.
3. Collect suggestions from teachers and share
Teachers will have a wealth of ideas for games, activities, and other innovative ways that families can help their students prevent the summer slide. Share these ideas with your audience. This could be as simple as a Facebook post or tweet saying, “Mrs. Norton says Sudoku is a great way to pass a rainy afternoon!” with a link to an affordable Sudoku book on Amazon. Or, you could do a Facebook Live of a teacher doing a read-a-loud from his favorite picture book. Or, record a clip of a math teacher showing families how to play a fun outdoor math game that enhances skills.
4. Survey parents about what they're planning
Parents have learned quite a bit about getting more involved in their child's learning, so now might be a good time to ask them for some ideas of their own to help minimize learning loss over the summer. Tips may emerge for how parents budget time and space to keep the kids on track. Conduct your own parent survey using this parent survey template. Surveys are the workhorse of engagement measurement and success, and they can be especially useful in this context.
5. Be consistent and use the right channels
The content options for learning loss prevention are nearly endless, but the importance is consistency and making sure you are reaching your audience where they are. Make it clear before the end of the year that you want to stay in touch with families and find out the best way to do that. Some parents are going to want Facebook posts, others are going to want email newsletters. Your content streams need to be rich and diversified for the summer so you can stay in connection with as many community members as possible and win the battle against the Monster Slide.
Share your ideas
The notorious learning-loss monster known as Summer Slide is being compounded by scheduling setbacks from the pandemic. If you have any ideas, post them in comment section below or email them to email@example.com.
Emma Castleberry is an education writer and contributor to the Campus Suite Academy blog. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.