Turning Summer Learning Loss into Learning Gains

Summer learning loss, summer slide—these familiar terms describe the loss of learning over the summer from the prior school year because of the lengthy absence from school. On top of that, we are now (unfortunately) dealing with COVID learning loss, which still lingers as a result of school disruptions and prolonged virtual learning.

Combined, this loss of learning creates a dangerous and slippery slope that schools and students have been struggling to climb since the spring of 2020. But there is a way to combat the summer slide and COVID learning loss. First, let’s look at some staggering data surrounding learning loss.

Summer Slide/Learning Loss Data

  • One study from the American Educational Research Journal showed that the average student in grades 1 through 8 lost 17% to 34% of the prior year’s learning gains during summer break. Additionally, those students who lost ground in one summer are more likely to lose ground in future summers.
  • Further research revealed that, on average, students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by a full month’s worth of learning. Math declines were sharper than reading, with the extent of loss being more significant at higher grade levels.
  • Children from low-income families are nearly three grade equivalents behind wealthier students in reading by the end of the fifth grade due to summer learning loss.
  • In fact, more findings show that children in low-income households fall behind two months in reading over the summer, with these losses piling on top of one another each summer.

COVID-19 Learning Loss Is Even Worse

Even as we near three years since COVID changed our lives, the academic effects are still evident, especially as noted in test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the gold standard of student achievement tracking as well as “the nation’s report card.” Consider these statistics:

  • The i-Ready assessments from the 2021-22 school year reveal that fewer children in grades K-3 are developing essential phonics skills. For math, fewer students in grades 5-8 are developing essential math skills like understanding place value, multiplication, and fractions.
  • The NAEP test results revealed that reading and math scores among 9-year-olds have regressed to levels unseen for two decades.
  • According to NAEP, average scores for age 9 students in 2022 declined five (5) points in reading and seven (7) points in math when compared to 2020. That may not seem significant on the surface, but these numbers actually represent the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first ever score decline in mathematics.

Based on these new test scores, 9-year-olds in 2022 are now performing at the same level in math as 9-year-olds did in 1999 and at the same reading level as in 2004.

We all knew that COVID was bound to have a major impact on education, but the degree to which it has—20 years’ worth of academic progress gone—is astounding.

How to Reduce Summer and COVID Learning Loss

Despite the damaging loss of learning caused by COVID and a typical summer break, there are a few approaches to take in order to regain academic ground. But the underlying theme in any learning loss solution is simply more instruction time. All students, whether low- or high-performing, need to spend more time learning, whether it comes in the form of high-dosage tutoring, extended school days, or summer school.

To that end, summer learning has proven to be effective in not only mitigating summer learning loss and closing achievement gaps, but also in better preparing students for the new school year in the fall. But not all summer learning programs are created equal.

Catapult Learning’s Summer Journey Is the Solution

Academics are just one part of the equation when it comes to creating an effective and engaging summer learning program. And Catapult’s Summer Journey embodies that approach by going beyond just academics and creating a program that teaches the whole child. Highlights of Summer Journey include:

  • Academics: Yes, this is only one part of the equation, but it’s a very important part! Our research-based Achieve™ literacy and math summer programs support all learners by reinforcing foundational skills while developing strengths. The program’s systematic and explicit instructional model reinforces essential skills to close academic gaps, so students return to school ready to excel!
  • Results:comparison of pre-test and post-test iReady scores in a large, urban market revealed positive gains, with students’ average scores increasing by 9.3 points in reading and by 8.5 points in math after completing Catapult’s Summer Journey program.
  • Life Skills: Summer Journey focuses on critical real-world skills using programs that reinforce developmentally appropriate social skills connected to academic achievement. We also offer academic and family counseling, mental health counseling, family workshops, and 1:1 wellness or academic check-ins.
  • Enrichment: Catapult Learning’s turnkey STEAM, Robotics, and Financial Literacy enrichment programs provide engaging, hands-on ways for teachers and students to focus on the development of problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.
  • Flexibility: Summer Journey can be customized to fit your schools’ specific needs.
    • Mix and match Summer Journey components to create the perfect in-person or virtual program
    • Customized learning solutions
    • We can use our own certified teachers or your teachers
  • Turnkey Implementation: Programs are ready for implementation on the first day – no additional district resources required
  • FUN! Students love Summer Journey…even as they learn. STEAM and Robotics enrichment as well as hands-on projects and learning create a camp-like environment where students can be themselves and thrive.

Catapult Learning’s Summer Journey program is backed by more than 20 years of experience operating full-service summer programs. Whether you want a program that runs for two weeks or six weeks, with 30 students or thousands of students, full-day or half-day, in-person or virtual, we will work with you to customize the perfect program. All teacher and student materials are included with Summer Journey, and an experienced local team of Summer Journey experts are there for you to provide ongoing support, management, and professional development.

Provide your students with the extra instructional time they need to close learning gaps and reduce learning loss—all while having a great time. Download our brochure and schedule a call with us to discuss Summer Journey!