Teacher helps elementary aged student with writing skills.

The summer slide isn’t at any amusement park. It’s a well-documented phenomenon for elementary and secondary school pupils in the US, who experience backsliding in learning achievement during their months-long summer holidays. A landmark study published in the Review of Educational Research in 1996 documented that this summer loss equals about one month on a grade-level-equivalent scale.

Twenty-five years later, and in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, teachers and parents fear an even more dramatic drop that some are already calling the COVID slide.

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University has calculated the magnitude of student-level learning losses during COVID-19 on behalf of 19 state education research partners. Average estimates of how much learning students lost in the spring of 2020 varied widely – from one-third to as much as a single year of learning in reading, and in math, from three-quarters of a year to more than one and one quarter’s worth.


“There’s been many lessons learned over the past year regarding distance learning. For one thing, many districts learned that it’s one thing to use educational technology for supplemental instruction or to use it just for a few hours a day. It’s a whole other thing to go to ed tech full time throughout the day,” says Jay Diskey, former special assistant to the US secretary of education, when consider the pandemic’s impact on children and what it may mean for curriculum development in the years ahead.

“I think another lesson is that districts learned that ed tech works best, at least at this moment in time, when it’s in a hybrid mix of in-person and remote learning,” continues Diskey, who was executive director of the Association of American Publishers education division from 2006 to 2017.

“And then the final thing that I think a lot of districts learned is that quality content really, really matters, Diskey tells CCC.

“The curriculum should have a scope and sequence for the topics. It should also have authentic content drawn from trusted sources. And the curriculum should reflect local communities, and it should be diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Furthermore, it must be deliverable. This is where tech comes in.”

Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's Velocity of Content podcast series, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Senior Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.
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