I’ve been thinking lately about this Paul von Hippel piece for Education Next on summer learning loss. After looking closely at the data, he does not find evidence for the idea of a “summer learning loss” that particularly hinders low-income students.
While perhaps not as compelling, von Hippel writes that there is one finding that continues to stand up:
There is one result that replicates consistently across every test that I’ve ever looked at. It’s so obvious that it’s easy to overlook, but it’s still important: nearly all children, no matter how advantaged, learn much more slowly during summer vacations than they do during the school years. That means that every summer offers children who are behind a chance to catch up. In other words, even if gaps don’t grow much during summer vacations, summer vacations still offer a chance to shrink them.
What does this mean for the
extended break remote learning experiment being forced on us by COVID-19? My fear is that most education leaders will be content to take a breather this summer in the hopes that everything can resume as normal in the fall.
I think that would be a mistake on two levels. First, from a logistical standpoint, schools and districts should be preparing now for a potential second wave of outbreaks. Those outbreaks may not be as intense or as widespread, but school and district leaders have no way of knowing how bad it might be in their particular communities, and whether the coronavirus will again force them to close schools for extended periods of time. Regardless, given what we know, it would be irresponsible to blindly assume everything will be back to normal for the 2020-21 school year.
And second are the equity implications. Regardless of exactly how large the COVID-19 learning slide is going to be, there’s no question that students are losing precious learning time that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Education leaders should be thinking NOW about how they will make that up. Will they extend the current school year into the summer? Will they start the next school year early, or extend it somehow? Districts should be starting that planning process now.
–Guest post by Chad Aldeman