How your kids can avoid the "summer slide"

If you were to ask your kids about the “summer slide,” they might tell you about their favorite playground at the park or the new waterslide at the neighborhood community pool. Chances are, the ”summer slide” they aren’t aware of -- also known as summer learning loss -- is the one that will impact them most.

The “summer slide” is a well-researched phenomenon in which students’ academic progress (usually measured in reading and math test scores) typically regress over the summer months.

This makes sense, as over summer the majority of students aren’t enrolled in full-time academic programs. However, the extent of this regression may be far more significant that you imagined.

According to a study conducted by the Brookings Institute, summer learning loss impacts students in three main ways:

  1. Students’ test scores declined by an average of one full month of school-year learning

  2. Students’ scores dropped more sharply in math than reading

  3. Students at higher grade levels experienced more significant levels of decline

Furthermore, the study also concluded that the gap in reading levels between middle-income students and low-income students widens during the summer months -- while middle-income students tend to improve their reading skills over the summer, the reading skills of low-income students tend to decline over the same period.

Another study conducted by the Roosevelt Institute showed similar findings:


While both middle-income and low-income students showed improvement in their reading skills while enrolled full-time in school, only low-income students experienced significant reading skill regression during the summer.

Why does the gap widen over summer?

There’s another gap to blame. We’ve talked about the Enrichment Gap -- the significant difference between high-income and low-income families with regards to spending on extracurricular activities for their kids  -- and it’s especially prevalent during summer.

While high-income and middle-income children spend their summers in a wide variety of enriching summer programs from private providers, low-income students often don’t have any other choice besides public summer school.

Although public school districts often offer programs catered towards underperforming students, these programs are sparsely attended. A study from EAB showed that only 10 percent of students attend summer school.

How do we stop the summer slide?

The biggest problem with summer school is that kids (and their families) don’t want to go. One potential solution: make summer school more like summer camp.

Another solution: use Finli. Finli allows friends and relatives to directly contribute to a family’s immediate child care-related expenses, including summer programs. With the collective power of friends and family to share the financial burden of summer programs, we can empower more students, especially students from low-income families, to attend impactful summer camps and courses.

Lori Shao