Each year around the end of May, the school year ends and a countdown of sorts begins as parents wait for their children to utter those two little words: “I’m BORED!” While it can be annoying to hear your child complain about boredom incessantly, enrolling him or her in some sort of summer program or camp might not only save your sanity, it could also help your child avoid something researchers have termed “Summer Slide.”
Although it sounds like a cool ride at a water park, Summer Slide is no fun at all -- the term refers to the learning loss the average student suffers each summer. Research shows that many students, particularly those not involved in some sort of engaging, constructive summer activity, start the next school year a month behind where they should be. For students who are on grade level, the idea of losing a month or more of learning is alarming, but for those students who might not be performing at grade level in the first place, Summer Slide can be catastrophic. As students get older, the subject material covered in every subject each school year becomes more and more complex, making it harder and harder to re-learn topics at the beginning of each year. Moreover, many concepts build on one another because courses are vertically aligned, meaning that if a student lacks the basic concepts, it is impossible for them to move forward in their learning.
While Summer Slide clearly affects individual students each year, teachers also suffer the consequences as they must start each new school year not with new material, but with in-depth reviews of material that was learned the prior year. Bertha Bishop, who teaches multiple grade levels, has a unique perspective on Summer Slide. Since she teaches Spanish to students in many different grades, she is able to chart the progress of students from one year to the next. She also knows exactly what she teaches from year to year, and where students should be upon entering the next grade level. In her experience, however, most students do not start the year ready for new material, and Bishop, like most teachers, must review for the first few weeks of school.