5 Data-Driven Tips to Tackle Summer Learning Loss

The pain of summer learning loss has long been felt by educators across the country, with research on it dating back over 100 years.1 At Schoolzilla, we wanted to understand how educators are using data to gain insight into summer learning loss and what strategies they use to combat it.

We recently sat down with Chris Haid of KIPP Chicago and Roberto Vargas of Chicago International Charter School (CICS) to see how data helped them mitigate summer learning loss at their schools. Here are some tips they shared:

  1. Conduct your fall assessments immediately

First, it’s important to get a clear picture of the loss. For this reason, Haid recommends conducting your fall tests as soon as possible. Changing the time tests are administered helped teachers at KIPP Chicago get a better picture of where students were in the fall.

“We do the fall test sooner now — in the first or second week of school — to see what’s going on, but as far as instructional planning, we rely on the spring test [from the previous year],” Haid said.

  1. Use data to inform resourcing conversations

Vargas used NWEA MAP data to create a summer learning loss dashboard for CICS that illustrated the amount of loss and which subjects it occurred in.

The dashboard gives teachers a clearer view of where students are at the end of the summer and where they should be to get back on track for the school year. It uses students’ current RIT score as well as their target growth and target RIT score. Vargas explained that, with this dashboard, teachers have been able to group students whose test scores declined and create more effective teaching strategies for those students.

“Our staff will look at it and break the data down and say, ‘What’s going on in third grade that reading is so low? How can we get more resources into the third-grade classrooms to help them improve those scores?’”

Haid agreed that having visuals that clearly demonstrate the summer learning loss problem is key. “Having some really telling visuals drove all of our school leaders and regional team to the same conclusions and helped us focus our energies on what we could do, rather than if we had a problem or not.”

We’ve added a version of Vargas’s summer learning loss report to our NWEA MAP analytics suite. Click here to test drive the report!

summer loss report

  1. Take full advantage of the time after spring assessments

For the administration of KIPP Chicago, it did not seem plausible that students would regress in their studies with only six to eight weeks off for summer break. But the data was conclusive — there was a definite loss.

This data prompted educators to take a look at how they were structuring class time after the year-end spring assessment. School leaders realized that if purposeful teaching dropped off after the spring assessment, students would be less engaged during the final weeks of school, essentially extending their summer break. So extra emphasis was put on more purposeful, objective-driven teaching following the spring assessment.

  1. Plan for absolute operational readiness on day one

The operations team at KIPP Chicago asked themselves: “Are we instructionally ready from day one?” They saw that there was room for improvement, Haid said. So they put a greater focus on getting all operational systems up and running — with no delay when school doors opened — so that all tools were available for teachers to dive right into purposeful teaching and counter the effects of summer learning loss.

  1. Give teachers a window into summer activities

Vargas has since built out his dashboard to collect data on summer activities. Information on any summer programming students have taken part in, and on the curriculums they may have been exposed to, is now stored in the dashboard so that teachers have a sense of their students’ level of academic engagement during the break.

Data with an impact

The results of these data-driven decisions have been powerful and tangible for KIPP Chicago and CICS.

“We saw way less summer loss this year, nearly none in almost every class.” Haid said.

“We’ve seen a lot of improvement this year in some of our schools that were struggling last year; the report has been a big help,” Vargas said.

See the summer learning loss report! 

For those of you who have made it this far, here are some free online resources designed to help students stay sharp this summer:

edX courses offered by the nation’s top universities

Learn programming with Khan Academy

SAT practice

Math practice with TenMarks




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