Summer Learning Loss

Summer learning loss refers to the loss of academic skills and knowledge that students experience during the summer break from school. It is also known as summer slide, summer setback, or summer brain drain. This can happen when students are not engaging in activities that are intellectually stimulating or when they are not receiving formal education during the summer months.

Is It Real? Do Kids Lose Learning Over Summer?

Yes, the statistics do show that summer learning loss is a real phenomenon. Numerous studies have shown that many students experience a decline in academic skills and knowledge over the summer break from school, particularly in math and reading.

The American Educational Research Journal published a study in 2020 “School’s out: The role of summers in understanding achievement disparities” that analyzed the use of MAP Growth data to track student learning patterns during summer break. The study examined the extent and variability of summer learning loss across grades 1-8.

On average, students experienced a decline of 17-34% in the academic gains made during the previous year. Furthermore, students who lost academic ground in one summer were more likely to experience similar losses in subsequent summers.

The extent of the loss can vary depending on the student’s background, the length of the break, and the quality of the educational opportunities available during the summer months. In fact, not all students experience summer learning loss and that some students may even make academic gains.

How to Fix It: A Teacher’s Method

Outdoor reading class.

by Kendall Bird

As I was searching for learning activities for families to do over the summer, I typed “summer learning” into my Google search bar, and the first thing that came up was “summer learning loss.” That wasn’t a very encouraging way to start this summer learning adventure that I was so excited about. Then I started thinking, “What if I were a parent and I came across this?” Would I be even more concerned about my child receiving the educational skills needed to be successful in this day and age?

How do you lose learning?

Numerous studies have been conducted on the matter, and Wikipedia even has an official definition of summer learning loss, citing it as “the loss in academic skills and knowledge over the course of summer vacation.”

As a teacher, I have experienced a sense of “I forgot” syndrome with my students for the first month or so of school. Part of it was, in fact, due to kids not reading or doing activities with educational value over the summer, and part of it was just everyone getting used to each other and finding a working rhythm.

Every year, a new group of kids come together to learn from a new teacher who has a different style of teaching from the teacher they had the year before. New schedules and routines need to be learned, and procedures have to be put in place. It is all a bit overwhelming for both teacher and student.


So what is the answer? Do we cancel summer vacation and go to year-round schooling? Do we put our kids on a rigorous schedule of worksheets and tests to make sure they are learning over the summer?

In my opinion, teachers and students need summer vacation. Schools are putting a lot of pressure on everyone these days, and summer gives people the opportunity to relax, decompress, and rejuvenate for the approaching school year.

When I was a child, summer was filled with adventure and opportunities to learn. I explored outside and learned about science and nature. I set up a lemonade stand, which provided me the opportunity to practice numerous math skills. I went to the library every week, read books, and learned new things. I wrote stories and did art projects.

Fun learning

Even though times have changed, there are still opportunities all around us for learning to take place over the summer. We live in a world of video games and computers, which can either be used as babysitters and hinder learning or provide educational opportunities never before possible for learners if used properly and monitored closely.

All of this being said, there are things you can do to prepare your child for the next school year without wearing them out and making them resent school. Summer learning camps provide learners with a fun, hands-on way to continue learning through the summer.

At home, you can create your own summer learning calendar. The most important things to have learners of all ages doing throughout the summer are practicing math facts and reading and writing.

The faster and more naturally learners can recall math facts, the more successful they will be with all higher-level maths. Reading and writing are skills learners need across the board in all subjects.

There are many more resources on the internet you can find and print, or you can make up your own. Teaching your kids core computer skills will enable them to use online learning software. Other things you can do are:

  • Visit the library for story time
  • Visit your local museum
  • Research a person of interest and make a news report or book about them
  • Take a nature walk and keep a science journal
  • Write a script and perform reader’s theatre.

There is so much more you can do to stimulate learners’ minds and keep them thinking and growing in their education over the summer. The point is to follow your child’s interests and: be creative, be resourceful, and make it fun!