The Effects of Summer Learning Loss on Low-Income Students

Students and parents alike usually view summer as a time for well-deserved relaxation and a break from learning. However, this break from learning can have consequences that are detrimental to students during the following school year and beyond.

More than half of the achievement gap between low- and med/high-income students is due to unequal access to high-quality summer learning opportunities. Low-income students often can’t afford the summer camps, intensive programming or worldly vacations that their more affluent peers attend, and often spend their summers watching TV or babysitting their siblings.

Most students lose about two months of mathematical computation skills over the summer. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, while their mid/higher-income peers actually make slight gains.

This achievement gap has more and more of an effect on students as they complete more schooling. These summer knowledge losses compound so greatly that it has even been identified as part of the reason that low-income kids are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college (

Not only do students lose knowledge, many also gain unhealthy amounts of weight during the summer due to a lack of balanced meals at home and lack of exercise they normally get from recess, organized sports or gym class. Students gain weight on average two to three times faster than they do during the school year (

As you can see, it’s important in many aspects of a child’s life to have access during the summer to programs that will keep them learning and keep them healthy.

United Way for Greater Austin partners with other community organizations to provide such opportunities for low-income students in our city and make sure they return to school on track. Our partners for the upcoming summer programming include: Lifeworks, Manor ISD, Camp Fire, Creative Action, FlowStory PLLC, University of Texas, Kerbey Lane Café, Samsung and Bank of America.

This summer, as in years past, we will host free summer programming for low-income middle school students that will provide learning on a variety of topics, including learning about future career possibilities, STEM, writing and volunteer projects. The students will also take field trips around the city for interactive projects and to visit different career sites.

Stay tuned to our blog for at-home enriching activities you can do with your child this summer!