Summer Slide

February 8, 2022 4:57 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

No, this is not the kind kids have fun on with water in the summer. These are the academic losses among students resulting from the summer months without access to regular classroom instruction or other educational opportunities typically not available in summer. Sometimes by as much as a month’s worth of learning, with sharper declines in math than reading, summer slide continues to impact students, especially those who struggle academically. Most disturbingly, recent trends point to exacerbated losses from COVID-19, with an estimated $17 trillion in losses of lifetime earnings as the result of the COVID-19 school closures. (These are among the findings of The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery, a report published by the World Bank, the UN Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization and the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF.)


What Groups Suffers the Most?

Much of the typical summer slide findings are rooted in socioeconomics, with greater losses, and larger learning gaps, among students from lower income-based homes (Atteberry & McEachin, 2016; NWEA, 2021). Students with disabilities also suffer from summer slide, often showing great gains from services provided to them during the school year, yet most affected by summer slide (NWEA, 2021).

Among the factors of post-COVID losses was the interruption of instruction from in-person to hybrid, with little or no time to plan for virtual instruction. In addition, the loss of in-person supplemental opportunities such as before and after school programs, individual support and federal resources provided to students with learning disabilities, and individualized instruction from teaching aids – all resulting in a deepened endemic of summer slide. Now, let’s talk about solutions.


Effective Summer School Programs

Summer school programs are one solution to summer slide. While not all programs are right for all students, not all programs are accessible to all students. In addition, summer programs vary in their impact on student achievement, and there are mixed reviews in terms of program effectiveness, particularly among low, medium, and high-income students. Kim & Quinn (2013) found that low-income students were more likely to benefit from summer reading programs, though not all summer programs were equal in value to students. Those that used evidence-based approaches to learning were more likely to yield positive results for all students, especially maximized with high quality instruction and experienced teachers. This quality and access hinges upon many factors, including enrollment, district size, and federal or state Title I resources.

Summer School Program Design

  • Use an evidence-based, high-quality curriculum. Research continues to show the correlation between quality of instruction and heightened student performance in reading. Summer literacy programs and evidence-based curricula with professional development for teachers, small group instruction tied to learning goals, and ample teacher coaching support. Research-based literacy instruction with a focus on fluency, prior knowledge, and teacher modeling has shown the most significant impact on reading outcomes.
  • Maximize Participation and Attendance with Academics and Fun. Set enrollment deadlines, establish an attendance policy, and provide learning games, e-activities, and live events such as field trips to maximize engagement. A school-like program is perfectly fine; no need to disguise the fact that school is school, however integrating the school-day instruction with engaging activities and trips will increase the likelihood of participation, attendance, and on-going student engagement. Incorporate incentives to encourage attendance, such as badges, certificates, and awards. Thus, academic gains and readiness for back to school in the fall.
  • Hire experienced, high-quality teachers and compensate fairly to attract them. There have been positive findings with statistically significant associations between teaching experience and reading outcomes (McCombs, et al., in: American Educator, 2018). It is important to hire and train the right teachers for summer school. Motivated teachers with experience, openness to training, the right monetary incentives, and on-going support for their success with the students they serve in the summer school program, be it live or in a blended learning environment.


It Takes a Village to Prevent Summer Slide

We can all play a role in preventing summer slide. In addition to high quality summer programs, here are some suggestions for teachers, parents, and schools:

  • Local libraries usually have summer reading programs, such as read-aloud events and reading challenges. If libraries are closed due to COVID-19, visit their website to see what virtual events are available.
  • Give students books to take home over the summer. Go to a used bookstore and seek a donation, or use a small budget to purchase a box of books. Allow students to choose from a “book bin”, they will be excited from the onset to take home reading over the summer, and thus more likely to read.
  • Give students a summer reading challenge with a reward certificate for completion, for example give them a specific number of books to complete. A summer book club is another way to challenge them.
  • We Are Teachers has math games to be played with a simple deck of cards here:
  • Community centers often have summer programs funded by non-profits and state or federal funds, available often to low-income families for free or at a low cost. Check with your local school district or community center(s).
  • Free audiobook resources can be found here:
  • Start a summer writing program, encouraging students to write by keeping journals, journaling about outdoor summer events, and writing poetry.
  • Start a summer book club.
  • Scholastic has suggestions for parents with “7 Ways to Stop Summer Slide”:



  1. 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 Research, 66(3), 227–268.
  2. 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 Research, 83(3), 386–431.
  3. Guryan, J., Kim, J.S., & Quinn, D.M. (2014). Does reading during the summer build reading skills? Evidence from a randomized experiment in 463 classrooms. NBER Working Paper No. 20689.
  4. US Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Educational Statistics 218-2019.
  1. Effective Summer Programming What Educators and Policymakers Should Know. McEachin, A., Augustine, C., McCombs, J. American Educator, Spring 2018