July 02, 2020

The Summer Slide 2020

By Elinor Blankenship |  

Even when times aren’t unprecedented, students from different socio-economic backgrounds have very different summer experiences. Some youth are working, some are home alone, some are on vacations, at summer camps, or visiting family. The gap between children in lower-income families and higher-income families can get even wider during these times away from school. Summer Learning Loss, sometimes called “The Summer Slide” or “The Achievement Gap,” occurs when students from lower-income households fall behind their peers during the months of summer break. If you are a visual learner, this clip from NBC provides a great graphic describing how this happens. 

Data from the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) shows that 9 in 10 teachers spend at least 3 weeks re-teaching lessons at the beginning of the school year. An Urban Institute report states that one in five children ages 6 to 12 are regularly left without adult supervision after school or during the summer, translating to about 3.5 million unsupervised children. This fall, it is anticipated that students will come back to school with about 70% of the learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year, less than 50% of the learning gains in math, and in some grades, nearly a full year behind academically. The disruptions at the end of the 2019-2020 school year caused these at-risk students to stay even further behind.

SLW_2020_-_for_dark_background_with_blue_week_and_book.pngSo what can be done? By providing targeted educational activities in the summer, children who would normally be stagnant or falling behind are able to stay on grade level with their peers. Elementary school students with high attendance in summer learning programs boost their math and reading skills. This summer, it is even more important that learning programs be accessible to the families in our communities. The NSLA is celebrating National Summer Learning Week July 6-11, 2020.  According to their website, Summer Learning Week is “a celebration dedicated to elevating the importance of keeping kids learning, safe, and healthy every summer, ensuring they return to school in the fall ready to succeed in the year.”  

On the NSLA website www.summerlearning.org, you will find many resources including a detailed guide of talking points for this summer. Their three key messages to share for Summer 2020 are:

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic poses an unprecedented challenge to summer learning.
  2. High-quality summer learning makes a difference and community leaders must be hyper-creative and hyper-collaborative to meet the needs of our most vulnerable students this season.
  3. Achievement and opportunity gaps start early and summer offers students a chance to catch up. Check out the full report with even more info on each.

Summer learning doesn’t mean that programs turn into a school, but it means that learning and inquiry are encouraged throughout programming. Some simple examples are taking something like a Jenga game and adding math facts or trivia on to the blocks or doing your stretches and warm-ups with spelling words instead of just counting.  Adding STEM principles and letting students experiment is a great way to keep minds working while they play.


Don’t let looking for quality, educational activities get too stressful! UAN recently released a Summer Activity Guide on our website. The Summer Activity Guide has been developed for the 50 State Afterschool Network with leadership from the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network to engage and support children and youth nationwide. It includes 150 activities for ages 5-18 and includes resources for in-person and virtual programming. The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation also has a new afterschool app called “Mizzen” that is full of great educational activities and units for programs that are ready to be used in your out-of-school time program. 

As we finish up summer programming over the next few weeks, now is a great time to incorporate (or add even more) meaningful learning opportunities into your virtual or in-person activities so that the youth you serve will be ready to tackle their new school year.