I remember vividly looking forward to the summers as a student. It was a welcome break from the rigors of school. It was also a great time to take on some new and fun activities that were not possible during school. Sometimes that included trips and vacations that were significant opportunities for our family to enjoy.
Since the 1980’s there has been a significant debate on whether these breaks are creating learning gaps for students. In other words, it was suggested that summers were a time when students fell behind in their learning capability due to lack of constant learning activity. Obviously as students we were unaware of this being a problem in light of the fun of summer.
In some recent research the idea of the “summer slide” in learning has been challenged. Under closer scrutiny, the idea of summer learning loss doesn’t seem to hold up, according to a recent study. Here is a quote from an article written by Youki Terada.
The idea of summer learning loss—of a growing learning gap between students who took summers off, and those who continued to study—was most famously recorded in test scores from Baltimore in the 1980s and appears to be supported by common sense: If kids spend their summers playing, they’ll fall behind those that spend their time studying. But according to Paul T. von Hippel, a policy professor at the University of Texas at Austin, there are flaws with the research on summer learning loss that should make us question the universal truth of the summer slide.
“I used to be a big believer in summer learning loss,” von Hippel explains in the article. “But my belief has been shaken. I’m no longer sure that the average child loses months of skills each year, and I doubt that summer learning loss contributes much to the achievement gap in ninth grade.”
One of the issues that I have posted on regularly is the significant levels of toxic stress that we are witnessing in the lives of students in America. I recognize that summer can break up some of the learning momentum achieved during school but I also believe that a break from the stress can be healthy.
This research gives us some leeway to enjoy these breaks, realizing that such breaks typically have little effect on learning loss in our students. The wonderful days of summer can be celebrated and enjoyed as we prepare for the year to come. I think for those of us who are involved in teaching students it also provides a way to recover, recharge and plan new ways to help our students experience a new year of growth and learning.