When it comes to the yearly challenge of mitigating learning loss for students, education leaders are very concerned as they brace for an even worse “summer slide” this year, due to COVID-19. Research suggests that the “COVID slide” is expected to be far worse than in previous years.
In recent research, the Northwest Evaluation Association (a research-based not-for-profit organization that creates academic assessments for students pre-K-12) found that, on average, students lose anywhere between two weeks to two months of academic growth over the summer. But those NWEA projections wouldn’t necessarily apply this year.
Factoring in the current situation leads to an even bleaker picture. Students returning to their schools in the fall without continuity of instruction during these closures will have retained only about 70 percent of their reading progress, compared to an average year.
And those projections are probably quite conservative for vulnerable students; they don’t take into consideration the impact of students’ trauma or discrepancies in accessing educational assistance during the closures.
Beth Tarasawa, the executive vice president for research at NWEA, said, “So when we start to think about homelessness and food insecurity and all these other traumas, the variation in that slope is going to be, I think, potentially a more dramatic downfall. This isn’t meant to be doomsday; it’s meant to get people to think about the reality of what teachers are going to be facing at the restart of instruction.”
An Effective Solution
When it comes to reading, there is an effective solution to mitigate the loss. Research has shown that establishing healthy reading habits can do a lot to arrest the summer slide. Reading at least 20 minutes a day, every day, all year long can make a world of difference for all students.
The challenge is to keep students engaged in reading over the summer, without regular contact with teachers and others who reinforce that message during the school year.
A successful summer initiative should mirror the school culture to the degree possible, and serve as a bridge between the prior and upcoming school years.
These are the three critical features of an effective summer initiative.
1. Planning and Leadership
Regardless of when the planning begins, an essential first step is to identify a summer literacy coordinator who can lead the planning and implementation processes.
2. Ensure Students Have Access to Engaging Material
Either partner with public libraries that provide kids with access to electronic books or print books over the summer, or connect the student to a digital reading platform which gives students unlimited, 24/7 access to books on various topics and at a range of levels.
3. Set Goals, Success Indicators, and Plans to Monitor Progress
Explain to parents in advance how critical it is for them to encourage reading outside of school. What’s more, they need to provide their child with a quiet reading space and set aside time in their child’s daily schedule to read independently or with family members. Impress upon the parents that they are a crucial component of their child’s success.
Have Some Fun Too!
1. Read a Story
Don’t let your child’s summer reading be only mandatory. Kids need to be able to indulge in elective reading materials, as well. Take a look at online retailers like Amazon or Barnes and Noble for books that will widen your child’s imagination, or patronize your local bookstore that is probably just recovering from COVID-19.
2. Camp Out in your Backyard
If you can’t go out camping, then bring the camping to you. Head out to the backyard and gaze at the stars with your children under a tent. Alternatively, you can replicate the feeling of camping indoors with a fort made of blankets and pillows. And don’t forget the s’mores and stories!
3. Initiate a Bicycle Parade
Don’t just ride your bike. Make it into a bike-riding parade around the neighborhood. Maintain your social distance and decorate your bike with streamers, ribbons, and pipe cleaners using this tutorial from Toys R Us.
4. Bring the Zoo to you
Who says you can’t go to the zoo? Tune in to some zoo live streams to view animal families from the cozy comfort of your home. Be sure to take note of the time zones where these animal cams are, to see when the animals are active, and then check them out. Start with the Koala Cam at the San Diego Zoo or National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
Help Your Students Cope with the Crisis
The response to the COVID-19 Pandemic is unprecedented. Because of our unique role in children’s K-12 education including online speech therapy, we feel a responsibility to do what we can to assist schools, therapists, and students with this transition to online learning and seclusion. To ensure that our students remain engaged and supported, our therapists are providing complimentary “Support Sessions” to the country’s youth. We are also assisting schools by training their therapists for online therapy.