Whether real or not, beware the ‘summer slide’

Two University of Miami professors provide tips on how parents can help their children continue to learn during the summer and be ready for the school year.
Summer slide
Chakeia Andrews, assistant professor of practice, and Matthew Deroo, assistant professor, discuss the 'summer slide.' 

The “summer slide” is a time during the summer school break when many children lose or forget some of the content and skills taught in their prior school year, according to many educators. 

However, studies on this phenomenon tend to be inconclusive and do not apply to every student population, according to Matthew Deroo, assistant professor at the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development

“While the notion of learning loss is not one that I agree with, and the research is inconclusive, especially since replication studies have not been able to produce consistent results, we do know that students who live in under-resourced communities are most vulnerable in school,” said Deroo. 

Other vulnerable groups include low-income students, English language learners, and those with learning disabilities, studies show. Some studies show that many lose skills in reading and math. 

But rather than focusing on learning loss, Deroo believes parents should make sure students have access to quality nutrition, public health, mental wellness, and community resources. 

Parents should also keep in mind that students can learn in a myriad of ways not directly tied to a traditional classroom. 

“The idea of learning loss is connected mostly to tests, which do not always measure the true nature of students' learning,” said Deroo. 

Deroo and Chakeia Andrews, assistant professor of practice in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the School of Education and Human Development, both believe that parents should provide opportunities for children to continue learning during the summer months. 

Research indicates that the summer slide disproportionately affects vulnerable groups of students. Low-income students often have less access to educational resources and enrichment activities during the summer compared to their higher-income peers. English language learners might not have as many opportunities to practice English during the summer, leading to setbacks in language acquisition. Students with learning disabilities, without continuous support and structured learning environments, can experience greater difficulties in retaining knowledge, said Andrews. 

“Summer learning has been effective in preventing summer learning loss, narrowing achievement gaps, and better preparing students for the upcoming school year,” said Andrews. 

These are some of tips that will help students maintain their knowledge: 

  • Encourage reading: Make reading a daily habit. Parents can visit libraries with their children or participate in summer reading programs. Parents can also read aloud to children and encourage them to read aloud to them.
  • Engage in educational activities: Use educational apps and games that focus on math and reading skills. Board games, puzzles, and free educational resources on the internet can also promote critical thinking. 
  • Create a learning schedule: Set aside time each day for educational activities to keep the learning routine active. Make the activity fun by integrating games that can enhance the learning experience. 
  • Explore community resources: Many communities offer free or low-cost educational programs and activities, such as museum visits, aquariums, science camps, and cultural events. 
  • Practice math skills: Incorporate math into everyday activities like cooking, shopping, or planning trips to keep math skills sharp. 
  • Have students engage with nature, visiting parks and beaches. Allow them to explore the different fauna, birds, insects, and other animals. 
  • Take your children to the grocery store. Make them write down the grocery list, read signs throughout the store, weigh the produce, and take a calculator so they add all the item prices before you pay. 

When the children return to school, most teachers spend the first few weeks of the new school year reviewing past learning to ensure that students have retained key concepts and skills, said Andrews.

“This review helps to identify gaps in knowledge and provides a foundation for new learning,” she said. “It is also a critical time for teachers to assess students' readiness for the new curriculum and make any necessary adjustments to their teaching plans.”