Summer Learning Loss

Summer learning loss is the loss of academic skills and knowledge over the course of long school holidays, in countries that have lengthy breaks in the school year, such as the US and Canada. On average, if students are given the same standardized test at the beginning of the long school break and again at the end of that break, they score better at the beginning of summer than after being out of school for several months. Almost all children lose some academic skills during long periods away from school.

The loss in learning varies across age, subject matter, and family income. Summer loss for all students is estimated to be equal to about one month (Cooper 1996), but it varies across subject matter:

  • Mathematics – 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency loss (about 28% of a school year)
  • Reading – Varies according to socioeconomic status Low-income students generally lose about 2 months of reading achievement. Middle-income students, who are more likely to read for pleasure, experience slight gains in reading performance.

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