Summer Learning Loss

Parents and teachers alike have been wondering, “What is summer learning loss? How does it affect my students?” The short answer is most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in reading and mathematical computation skills over the summer months – what educators and researchers refer to as “summer learning loss” or “summer brain drain.”

To succeed in school and life, children need ongoing opportunities to learn and practice essential skills. This is especially true during the summer months.

  • Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do (Duffett et al. 2004)
  • Low-income students lose more than two months in reading achievement, more than other income groups
    (Cooper, 1996)
  • Summer learning loss is NOT correlated to race, IQ or gender (Cooper, 1996)
  • About two-thirds of the ninth-grade achievement gap between lower and higher income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during the elementary school years (Alexander et al. 2007)
  • Summer Learning Loss Impacts Every Student and Teacher Every Year

All students experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer (White, 1906; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al. 2004). The research on summer learning loss is so persuasive the John Hopkins University founded the National Association for Summer Learning a decade ago to help educate parents and teachers on how to prevent summer learning loss. The organization is now independent of the university and can be found at

The National Summer Learning Association serves as a network hub for thousands of summer learning program providers and stakeholders across the country, providing tools, resources, and expertise to improve program quality, generate support, and increase youth access and participation. Recognized by the National Summer Learning Association in 2012 as an summer learning program Excellence Award nominee, ThinkStretch supports the initiatives of the National Summer Learning Association in stopping summer learning loss.

Summer is a glorious time for exploratory learning, creative pursuits and outdoor activities. It should not be a time when math, writing and reading skills slide backward. Download a sample ThinkStretch activity book to explore how you can help stop summer learning loss.