Students who lose academic skills over the summer months do not lose these skills at the same rate. Factors such as socioeconomic status, class subject, and grade level all play a role in how much learning a student actually misses over the summer.
Research shows that during the school year, children across all income levels share similar academic performance. During the summer, however, lower-income students do not have the same opportunities to extend their learning. By the end of the fifth grade, higher-income students had added 47 points to their test scores, by engaging in summer learning over the years, while lower-income students lost two points.
The loss of reading comprehension tends to be more pronounced in lower-income students, while children from higher-income families see gains in reading measures over the summer. Math skills, on the other hand, don't seem to be as affected. This is because children are naturally more exposed to reading at home than practicing math, yet children from lower-income families tend not to have the same reading exposure as their higher-income peers.
Disparity of summer learning loss by subject and grade levels
Not all grade levels experience the summer slide equally either. Overall, decreases in math seem to be the most prominent, followed by reading, and students in the upper grades experience a higher level of learning loss than those in the lower grades. In the elementary grades, 70% to 78% of students lost math skills over the summer, while only 62% to 73% lost reading skills. During the summer, when a lot of students are transitioning to middle school, 84% of fifth and sixth graders have lost their math skills.
According to research, the average student loses anywhere between one to two months of reading and two to three months of math skills every summer. Since summer learning loss is cumulative, by the time a child reaches middle school, he or she has lost two years of learning.
Length of summer break
Many schools have considered modifying their academic calendar to offset summer learning loss. Some have extended the school year while others have adopted a year-round calendar. However, there is little evidence these models actually help prevent the summer slide.
A review of current research revealed extending the school year had a minimal impact on academic achievement over time, and there are no academic gains for those using the year-round model.
While these approaches are still evaluated across school districts, parents are taking advantage of online learning options. In summer 2020, online learning will become even more important for all types of students to foster and maintain academic skills until schools can reopen.https://www.ntia.doc.gov/blog/2018/digital-divide-among-school-age-children-narrows-millions-still-lack-internet-connectionsLuckily, 96% of households across the U.S. have internet access, at least in the form of a smartphone. This type of online access is vital for students to supplement their education throughout the summer months.