5 things to know about how the pandemic has made summer learning loss worse


This summer could be a watershed time for students struggling to regain academic ground lost during the disruptions of the past few years.

Even before the pandemic, educators have long struggled with so-called “summer slidebecause students forget some of what they have learned in the previous year during class breaks. In fact, studies of the summer slide provided some of the earliest warnings about how school closures could hurt student progress in the early months of the pandemic. But research also shows that summer slide and learning loss from school disruption differ in ways that can compound each other. As student needs change, studies suggest how independent and school-based summer programs can adapt to provide better academic and social-emotional support.

“Before the pandemic, summer learning programs were largely designed to provide academic support to students who were failing or at risk of failing,” found the Education Development Center, a research and development organization. nonprofit development, in a new study on summer apprenticeship programs. “However, in the wake of the pandemic, summer learning stakeholders recognize the need to focus on the whole child’s learning (social, emotional, cognitive and academic development, as well as their physical and mental).”

Based on the research, here are five things school and district leaders need to know about how the summer slide and the COVID slide affect each other, and how schools can structure summer programs to help students to accelerate their learning.

1. Each type of “slide” can make the other steeper.

A study presented at the virtual National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME) annual meeting in 2021 compared the summer slide, a COVID-19 slide, and student performance in reading and math across the United States. States before and during the pandemic using growth-based assessments. In reading, students experienced a summer slide for some years, but all students experienced a COVID-19 related slide in 2020-21. In math, all students at all grades experienced a summer slide as well as a COVID-19 slide. Students lost their math ability faster than their reading ability, and the magnitude was greater in the upper elementary grades.

These findings may align with previous studies of summer learning loss, which conclude that it can hit students harder upon entering college. What students forget about the school year, once they are grappling with complex work, can be more detrimental the following year.

2. COVID has also hit summer school.

Summer programs have been as disrupted — and in some cases even more so — than regular school year classes during the pandemic. In his studying summer programs in 38 districts in 30 states, EDC found that most districts were unable to offer summer programs at all in 2020, due to in-person health restrictions and limited virtual capacity . District leaders reported that it took “blood, sweat and tears” to set up summer programs even at one-fifth of their normal size. While federal and state stimulus funding supported summer programs in 2021, EDC found that many districts did not have enough time and staff to plan full summer programs.

This means that many students have had less access than usual to school summer programs at a time when external camps, museums and other activities have also been more limited. This has widened the disparity in access to summer enrichment between students living in poverty and wealthier students. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics suggests that low-income students were half as likely to have access to museums and galleries and more than 30 percentage points less likely to attend day camp than students who didn’t. were not poor.

Experts recommend that schools and community groups partner to create portfolios of academic programs, sports organizations, camps and cultural resources to ensure students stay engaged during the summer months.

3. Instruction time matters.

A study by RAND Corp. out of 43 summer programs that have been highly effective in helping students deal with summer learning loss, determined that they should operate at least five weeks and include three hours or more instruction time each day.

However, last summer the Center on Reinventing Public Education found that of 80 large urban districts planning to use pandemic recovery money for summer programs, less than half had scheduled programs long enough to provide the most effective instructional time. While more than 70% of programs offered both reading and math lessons, the center found that only 45% offered bridging programs to help students connect their summer learning to the school year at school. ‘fall.

4. Students seriously need to relax.

School-based summer programs typically focus on academic remediation and enrichment, and The White House has recently urged districts to dedicate a portion of their pandemic recovery funding to summer programs to fill academic gaps. But studies suggest school disruptions, unlike normal summer holidays, can be detrimental to the mental health of students. Ongoing pandemic stress may compound learning loss, and summer programs may require more explicit social-emotional supports for students.

Part of the difference between “good” stress that motivates a student to perform well and “toxic” stress that can lead to mental and physical health issues, is whether a student otherwise feels stable and able to control and to limit the source of stress. For many children, the pandemic has caused ongoing stresses beyond their control, such as financial instability, reduced social and educational engagement, and health or family-related anxiety. These complement each other and interferes with neurological development. Chronic stress could impair memory and learning, even once students are back in regular classes, putting them at greater risk of forgetting during the break.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning recommends that programs create opportunities for students to connect socially to each other and to school and to continue mental and social-emotional supports (such as counseling services ) during the summer to students who need it.

5. Summer programs also need teacher preparation.

EDC also found that district staffing issues remain one of the biggest challenges to improving school-based summer programs. District leaders reported that they “tend to rely on their own educators to staff their summer programs, and due to the COVID-19 crisis, educators were fatigued and unlikely to be as willing to work in the summer programs than they might have been in recent years. .”

The study noted that few districts offer summer-specific training and support.


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