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The Summer Slide and What ECV is doing to Stop It

By Laura Waters

Many issues in education are controversial, but there’s one fact that most parents, educators, researchers and politicians agree on: Students suffer a learning loss, also known as the "summer slide" during the two-and-a-half months of summer recess. While low-income children, English-as-a- second-language (ESL) kids, and students with disabilities tend to fall further behind than others, almost all children demonstrate less academic proficiency in September than they did the previous June, according to several studies by The Rand Corporation, The National Summer Learning Association and Johns Hopkins, among others. Some experts even believe this learning loss is cumulative and is responsible for much of achievement gap.

However, the Summer Enrichment Program offered by Every Child Valued has the potential to reverse the summer slide by engaging students in activities that look and feel very different than your typical school day. This program starts as the school year ends and keeps our kids learning. For the first time, ECV has extended this full day program from six to eight weeks, offering more enrichment to better prepare students for the upcoming school year all while they are having fun!

The academic part of the program consists of literacy, math, and social studies, all presented during the mornings through hands-on projects and educational games. In the afternoons, ECV students experience arts and crafts, swimming, tennis lessons, and other recreational activities. Fridays are devoted to fun field trips, including excursions to the zoo, the planetarium, the theater, the beach, and the boardwalk. In order to prepare our students for 21st learning, one week the program is a STEM week (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), including LEGO Robotics workshops.


Summer break: A history

It’s easy to forget that when formal public education got under way in the late 1800s, schools tended to adjust their calendars to suit their communities’ needs; for example, rural schools scheduled breaks in the spring so kids could help with harvesting. In the South, schools let out for the summer because there was no air- conditioning, and Northern schools recessed during the coldest months. In the 1900s, as more people moved to urban areas, school calendars were standardized and the nine-month school year became part of our culture, despite the prevalence of sophisticated heating and cooling systems and the decline in the number of families tied to agricultural calendars.

Now, however, our standards are much higher for students, as many parents know firsthand. Nine-month school years are SO last century.

How much learning does the slide cost kids?

Teachers report they spend much of September re-teaching material students have forgotten from the previous June. Sixty-six percent of teachers said they spent three to four weeks on material from the previous school year, and 24 percent reported spending five to six weeks, according to a May 2013 survey from The National Summer Learning Association.

Students from low-income families typically forget more—in excess of two months of reading achievement, according to a Johns Hopkins study that began in the early ‘80s. Higher-income kids maintain reading levels but nearly everyone slides back in math, as much as “two months of grade-level equivalency,” according to a comprehensive 2011 study of summer learning loss by The Rand Corporation. “Whether you are a low-income child or a high-income child, you lose math knowledge and skills at the same rate over the summer,” noted senior policy researcher Catherine Augustine, one of the Rand study authors.

Reversing the slide

It’s important for parents to help their children retain or grow skills over the summer in both reading and math, and that’s why ECV started the Summer Enrichment Program. Instead of vegging out and indulging in screen time, our children can spend eight weeks with specially-trained Learning Coaches in a combination of direct instruction and fun activities.

There are also recommended practices for parents to help our children both maintain the knowledge they learned the previous school year and move further head. Here are some suggestions.


Reading is typically easier to incorporate into casual summer activities than math, which partially explains why the dip in reading isn’t as severe, but summer upkeep is important. “Encouraging your child to continue flexing his or her reading muscles over summer vacation is the single most important thing you can do to help develop literacy learning,” says literacy expert, educational consultant and PBS reading advisor Julie M. Wood, Ed.D. Here are a few ideas for things to do to help your kids keep their reading skills sharp:

  • Take regular trips to the library; many local libraries have free summer reading programs.
  • Play word games with the kids like word association and crossword puzzles.
  • Encourage children to decode atlases and maps while on family vacations.
  • Hit the bookstore. Children’s sections of bookstores often offer free events.
  • Read stories to kids out loud and take books on trips and to appointments. Talk about the stories with your children. PBS has several “reading challenges” and sites for kids of various ages that can help.
  • Make sure your kids are reading the books on their school’s summer reading list.


  • Use recipes and dinner prep as a fun way to review fractions and practice measurements.
  • Find internet and iPad games that encourage math skills.
  • Teach your children about money; let them help calculate tips in restaurants.
  • Take them to the grocery store and have them compare prices, add up how much things will cost and figure out the tax.
  • Be proactive and chat with your child’s teacher about fun math games to play. 

Laura Waters is an Education Writer and a member of the Board of Trustees at Every Child Valued.

Every Child Valued
175 Johnson Avenue     Lawrenceville, NJ 08648
Phone: 609-883-0300     Fax: 609-883-0300