By Jillian Balow and Jim Quinn
For decades, summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, has been a significant issue, particularly for low-income students. A new study by the American Educational Research Association reveals that more than half of U.S. students experience summer learning losses five years in a row.
This phenomenon has been compounded considerably by the COVID-19 school closures this year, and it will take all of us — state and local leaders, parents, educators and community partners — working together to ensure America’s students come out of this crisis stronger.
As school districts across the country turn their attention to reopening plans for the fall, we cannot overlook the critical role that summer learning plays in mitigating some of that loss, providing enrichment and keeping students engaged with caring adults or mentors. These high-quality options must be available to all students, with a particular focus on students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, English learners, students with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness or foster care, and students in the juvenile justice system.
As programs get underway in this new environment, it isn’t enough to make summer learning a priority and target it to the students with the greatest need. States and local districts have fundamentally rethought how we deliver summer programs.
Some states and districts crafted creative solutions to serve the highest-needs students while adapting to necessary physical distancing protocols. In New York, for instance, in-person summer school will be permitted for special education students.
Health officials in Warrenton, Missouri gave the green light for in-person summer school and teachers at Warrior Ridge Elementary there have redesigned summer curriculum to address learning gaps. Washington County, Maryland offered priority for its summer programming to middle school and medically fragile students, and instituted rigorous physical distancing, cleaning and other health and safety protocols.
Other programs are using virtual and hybrid options to continue serving children.