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It’s Summer Time: Are Your Children Losing their Learning?

“If an investment is expected to depreciate by 30 percent in its first year and experience compounding losses every year thereafter, it’s probably not a sound venture.”

That’s from Kim Doleatto, with whom we couldn’t agree more, writing for [Sarasota’s] She continues,

““But that’s what happens with children’s education every summer.”

Kim has the data – lots of it – to back up that claim: it’s true for virtually all students on summer vacations — which means “virtually all students” — and that should be at least mildly distressing for parents of students.

There are, however, things that parents can do about mitigating or even eliminating summer learning loss, and we can help. But first, a little history of how we got to this lousy spot.

Education researcher Harris Cooper, writing in, notes that

In the early years of formal schooling in America, school calendars were designed to fit the needs of each particular community….. Some [rural] communities had long summer breaks that released children from school in spring to help with planting and in fall to help with the harvest, while urban schools sometimes operated on 11- or 12-month schedules. By 1900, migration from the farm to the city and an increase in family mobility [allowing easier relocations to new communities and for urban families to leave sweltering cities during summer months] created a need to standardize the time children spent in school. The present 9-month calendar emerged when 85% of Americans were involved in agriculture and when climate control in school buildings was limited. Today, about 3% of Americans' livelihoods are tied to the agricultural cycle, and air-conditioning makes it possible for schools to provide comfortable learning environments year-round…. Nevertheless, the 9-month school year remains the standard.

The distressing result isn’t that for the three summer months most students aren’t learning: It’s that for those three months virtually all students – regardless of race, IQ, or gender – are “unlearning.” Referring to his own 1996 study, Cooper notes that his meta-analysis of 13 past studies

… examining the effects of summer vacation on standardized achievement test scores…. indicated that children's tests scores were at least [emphasis added] one month lower when they returned to school in fall than scores were when students left in spring.

Educators David M. Quinn and Morgan Polikoff, in a recent post for, wrote that a “…study using data from over half a million students in grades 2-9 from a southern state (from 2008-2012) found that students, on average [emphasis added], lost between 25 – 30 percent of their school-year learning over the summer.”

We emphasized “at least” and “on average” because while Harris’s study demonstrated that students lost at least one month of math skills every summer, the average loss was 2.6 months, and that means that some students lost lots more than the equivalent of 2.6 months of math instruction.

That’s why a big chunk of the initial part of every school year is, in essence, wasted. Rebecca Klein, writing for, notes that a survey of 500 teachers found that 66 percent of them “…have to spend three to four weeks re-teaching students course material at the beginning of the year, while 24 percent of teachers spend at least five to six weeks re-teaching material from the previous school year.” And that’s what caused Matthew Boulay, founder of the National Summer Learning Association, to lament to Kim Doleatto, “We invest for nine months and then let those gains slip away. It’s a vicious cycle.”

The Chappaqua Learning Canter can help! We’re staffed by experienced professionals who can help with virtually all subject matter. We’re available 12 months/year to help your student keep ahead of the pack. So, call us today to find out how to get started preventing summer learning loss for your children.

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