We know from more than 100 years of research that young people lose skills they’ve learned in math and reading over the summer without practice. What we’ve learned is that while their middle- and higher-income peers continue to make slight gains in reading skills in the summer whether or not they attend a program, low-income youth lose two to three months of their reading skills without regular practice.
-Sarah Pitcock, National Summer Learning Association.
There’s no shortage of research documenting the academic ground that students lose when they’re out of school during the summer. For students from low-income backgrounds, the cost is particularly high. Their lost reading achievement during the summer slows their progress toward reading proficiency by the end of third grade and exacerbates the achievement gap with their more affluent peers.
Funders, policymakers and community leaders can help schools and local organizations address summer learning loss by supporting strong programs that engage more children in summer learning opportunities. This isn’t the summer school associated with punishment or remediation. This new, improved summer learning offers core academic learning, hands-on activities, arts programs, sports, technology and meaningful relationships. Several studies of summer learning programs show students make statistically significant gains in reading performance.
Here’s more from Sarah Pitcock:
These losses accumulate over time, leaving low-income youth farther and farther behind with each passing school year. By fifth grade, they are up to two-and-a-half years behind their higher-income peers, largely because of the difference in their summer learning experiences. Summer learning losses appear to be particularly acute during the years up to third grade when young people are learning to read. Any effort to increase the rate of third-grade reading proficiency should maximize the summer months as a time to both catch up and stay on track.