Don’t let the summer sun melt academic gains


Summer in Michigan means enjoying the sunshine, lakes and beaches, parades, family barbecues and countless other warm weather activities. The summer months should be fun for students, but it can also be a time when students unknowingly let their academic knowledge slip, also known as “summer brain drain.”

The “summer brain drain,” also called the “summer slide,” is something many teachers and parents combat every fall as students return to school. “Summer brain drain” refers to a student’s loss of skills and knowledge over the summer months. On average, students lose about a month of learning over this time period. The numbers for reading and math are even more dire, with an estimated two months of loss in some studies.

This loss of skills is tough for teachers and students when they return to school. Instead of learning new curriculum, they start a game of catch-up and refreshing materials that were taught in the previous year. Nine out of 10 teachers spend at least three weeks re-teaching lessons at the start of the school year.

So what’s the best way for parents and educators to combat this problem?

For many, the words “summer school” may generate some misconceptions. Some may connote summer school with remedial classes only, but the concept of summer learning has branched far beyond credit recovery. Students can now participate in reading challenges with local libraries, kindergarten readiness programs, apps and video games with educational content or join online classes.

Northville Schools provides an excellent example of expanding summer options for students to learn in a flexible way throughout June, July and August. Their district offers a face-to-face kindergarten readiness program, in-class courses in civics, economics, honors geometry and PE/Health as well as a variety of online courses. [Editor’s note and disclosure: Northville offers online classes by Michigan Virtual, the company headed by the author of this column.]

Just because you want to enjoy the summer months doesn’t mean your child has to stop learning during the summer. Students interested in growth and maintaining their learning through the year, as well as those looking for other options, are the perfect candidates for opportunities through your school district, your local library, through apps such as Bedtime Math or Duolingo, or video games with educational programs like Minecraft for Education.

Online classes especially offer a spectrum of learning options for students to explore career paths or the chance to keep their skills sharp yearround. Contact your local school district to explore available programs, and see which option meets the needs of your student.

Summer break can still be fun, but it shouldn’t be a vacation from learning.

About the author: Jamey Fitzpatrick is president and CEO of the digital learning company Michigan Virtual.

This guest commentary first appeared in Bridge Magazine, an online publication of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Center for Michigan.