Leaving the "Summer Slide" at the Playground

Jun 5, 2014

According to the National Summer Learning Association, most elementary students lose about two months worth of math and reading skills over the summer break, a problem that is well documented yet plagues parents and educators alike. Brandi Miller is a teacher at Garden Elementary, a school that’s a part of the Des Moines Public School system on the East Side of Des Moines. As a literacy coach, she says she sees first-hand the skills students lose over the summer when they return to school each fall. “We do assessment tests, and we almost always see loss. It takes about 6 weeks to get kids back up to speed.”

For educators, there are students they worry about more when it comes to the "summer slide." Students from homes lower on the socio-economic scale have fewer opportunities to educational opportunities when school isn't in session.

Todd Hodgkinson, who teaches at Drake University in the College of Education says the slide is part of a much bigger picture. “These skills compound. If you lose two months of skills, that is 20 percent of what you learned that year. If students never catch up, they get further and further behind. The summer slide is a part of what contributes to the achievement gap between high income and low income students as they progress through their education.”

This hour on Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Miller and Hodgkinson about the loss of skills, why it happens and how to prevent it. Then, Stacie Steveson, who works with Iowa Public Television’s “Ready for School” program joins the conversation.

How do you get your kids to read over the summer months? Here are some responses we heard from you during the show: 

Larissa commented on Facebook: "One of my favorite ways to get my son to write is through sending letters. My brother, who is very close to my son, recently moved to Oregon. He writes my son letters every month, and my son is always so excited to get his letters in the mail. I suggest finding a pen pal to write to over the summer.

Joe, @mccright, tweeted us: Here is a website I prepared for my students. Online activities give students choices.

Todd Hodgkinson: I recommend combining activities with reading. For example, if you are going to a baseball game, have your child read a book about baseball. If you are looking for age appropriate reading material, check out Lexile. Reading material has to be on grade level or kids can still lose skills even if they are reading.

Brandi Miller: To practice math, have your kids go to the grocery store with you. Ask them questions while you are there about the cost of what you are buying.