School’s Out! Surviving the Summer Slide

Now that the final bell has rung on the school year, and summer has officially arrived, how can teachers and parents best support students during their summer vacation? Many students will fall behind in the summer months; this phenomenon is called “the summer slide,” and experts are searching for ways to combat the problem. According to a report by the RAND Corporation in 2011, all students lose skills during the summer. For low-income students, this loss is even larger, especially when it comes to reading.

In recent years, there have been advancements with technology and online learning that can help support students stay sharp for when September rolls around. There are education apps available–such as Phonics Genius, King of Math and Rocket Science 101–that can help keep students engaged over the summer months.

reading outside summer

The Dreaded Summer Slide

When students step away from their usual learning routine during their summer break, they begin to lose skills learned during the school year. Parents and educators face the challenge of trying to keep students academically engaged without the traditional academic setting.

The biggest “summer slide” can be found in math and reading skills, especially among low-income students. In a report by John Hopkins School of Education, “Most youth lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. More importantly, however, low-income youth also lose more than two months in reading achievement.”

As the Florida Education Association (FEA) points out, teachers can help their students avoid the slide by encouraging them to read at least four to six books over the summer. Teachers can provide parents with book recommendations based on each students’ reading level and interests.

It’s important for teachers to help combat this slide since it costs them time in the classroom and the schools money. According to an article by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), “There are estimates that reteaching forgotten material when students return to school after the summer costs more than $1,500 per student each year.”

Parents often find themselves wondering how they can best help their children avoid the summer slide. One of the best things they can do is provide encouragement and engagement. The Huffington Post encourages families to start a book club where parents read the same book as their child and then discuss their thoughts on the book.

Implications for the Future

Reading skills are often hit the hardest during the summer slide, and the ASCD discusses how summer learning loss is “one of the three major obstacles to reading proficiency at the end of 3rd grade.” However, the effects of the summer slide don’t simply stop at elementary school. As outlined by the ASCD, “one in six children who are not reading proficiently in 3rd grade do not graduate from high school on time.”

Additionally, as outlined by John Hopkins School of Education, “Two-thirds of the ninth grade reading achievement gap can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during the elementary school years.”

The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) revealed that “the achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier.” By this account, the summer slide could continue to grow for generations to come.

Tools to Help Ease the Transition Back to School

From innovative apps to summer academic programs, students can avoid the summer slide while still enjoying summer.


  • Phonics Genius: For learners age 1 – 6, this app helps students recognize and distinguish words by sounds.
  • King of Math: This app is designed for math learners at about the Middle School/Junior High levels. In addition, there is a King of Math Junior app designed for younger learners.
  • Rocket Science 101: Designed by NASA, this app allows students to choose their favorite NASA mission, build a rocket for it, and launch it into space.
  • Smithsonian Institute for Kids: This online resource is a compilation of online Smithsonian exhibits that help students engage with such subjects as art, history, science, culture, and more.
  • Teenreads: is an excellent resource for students to find the perfect books for summer reading.

Summer School, Academic Programs, and Bootcamps

Many schools offer summer school programs that can help students stay connected to their school year routine. According to the Wallace Foundation, “students who attend summer programs have better outcomes than similar peers who do not attend these programs.”

Parents and students can also explore other academic summer programs, such as Building Education Leaders for Life (BELL) which serves K-8 students throughout the United States. Students who were part of the 2015 BELL summer program saw a a href=”” target=”_blank”>30% increase in their math skills and 20% increase in their reading skills, according to STAR Reading and Math assessments.

Additionally, there are a variety of academic bootcamps which are often structured very much like summer camp. These can often be found through local tutoring centers, community centers, or through The American Camp Association.

With all this emphasis on summer learning, it’s important to take a look at year-round schools and what they have to offer. According to the National Education Association (NEA), the most prevalent form of year-round schooling is the 45-15 plan, which has students engage in 45 days of learning followed by 15 days off. The ASCD indicates that research is “inconclusive on whether year-round schooling is an effective solution to this problem [the summer slide].” However, findings do show that year-round schooling can be especially beneficial to low-income students.

Upcoming Education Initiatives

There are promising steps being taken in summer academic programs. The National Summer Learning Association collected the highlights for a 2015 State Policy Snapshot. For example, the state of Massachusetts increased budget appropriation for the After-School and Out-of-School Grants (ASOST) grant program. Additionally, there has been legislation passed that acknowledges the potential of summer education, such as California passing SCR14: Arts Education Month.

As the spotlight grows brighter on the summer slide, it’s important to continue expanding on all possible approaches to year-round learning and the potential benefits of year-round schooling. Year-round schooling promotes continuous student learning. It can offer flexibility to schools and even help students and teachers avoid burnout.

While there is no definitive research that shows if year-round schooling effectively solves the summer slide, it is clear that year-round learning can help students avoid academic loss over the summer months. With the support of parents, educators, and students alike, there can be innovative steps taken to help decrease the effects of the summer slide.


  1. Lisa Fels

    July 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    I applaud all efforts to encourage kids to continue to learn over the summer, whether it’s through reading, academic programs at various camps, or use of apps and other online platforms. It’s imperative for them to remain sharp during breaks to ease the transition back to school. And, of course they have less access to their teachers who work tremendously hard to help them advance during the school year. In addition to the worthwhile advice presented here, we shouldn’t neglect the power of peer role modeling to facilitate learning. Select social media platforms and learning communities are a good start — they provide students the vehicles they need to stay engaged, collaborate and learn together.

  2. Aarti Vaghela

    July 25, 2016 at 12:21 am

    Very nice article, i appreciate efforts of edudemic for bringing it here. Thank you!

  3. Time Apple

    September 18, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    very nice information, would like to read some more articles on education topic. We need to improve our education system more and more.