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New Reports Show High-Quality Phonics Instruction Reduces the Summer Slide

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\You’ve worked hard all year to provide your students with the instruction and practice they need to become strong readers. As the end of the school year nears, you may be thinking about ways to avoid the dreaded “#summerslide,” which can add up to a month of lost learning on average (Cooper et al., 1996). A recent set of reports by Learning Experience Design (LXD) Research shows that using a #structuredliteracy curriculum can decrease summer learning loss, reducing the need for intervention during the following school year. This research aligns with Dr. Schechter’s previous research examining how using Lexia Reading Core5 minimized the summer slide and supported a rebound effect in a high #ELL school (Brooke, Macaruso, & Schechter, 2019).

The Impact of Core Curriculum

Researchers examined the effects of the 95 Phonics Core Program on the Acadience Reading scores of K-3 students between Fall 2021 and Fall 2022. The 95PCP builds key phonics skills through 30 minutes of daily instruction. Analysis showed positive impacts for the composite scores of rising first graders who started below grade level and the composite scores for all rising third graders. Positive impacts were also found for rising second graders, specifically on the Nonsense Word Fluency Correct Letter Sounds and Whole Words Read assessment measures. Comparing the treatment and control groups at each level revealed that structured literacy’s positive impact on literacy achievement was sustained through the summer and into the next school year (Schechter & Lynch, 2022).

The Impact of Intervention

Structured literacy can strengthen intervention by retaining more students on grade level over the summer. In a kindergarten intervention, students who had been identified as “Below” or “Well Below” Benchmark received Phonological Awareness (PA) Lessons in small-group interventions. Acadience was used to compare the progress of the treatment group and the control group (who received a different intervention) from Fall 2021 to Fall 2022. The data showed an average increase of six points in the composite scores of rising first graders by Fall 2022, suggesting that the PA Lessons better helped students retain the skills they learned in kindergarten through the summer break. This retention also meant that an additional 11 percent of students in the treatment group began first grade “On” or “Above” grade level (Schechter & Lynch, 2023).\

progress bars with an 11 point bump for students on or above grade level

Similar results were found for the first-grade intervention using Phonics Lesson Library (PLL) and Phonics Chip Kit. Students using the PLL had significantly higher composite scores in Fall 2022 (compared to Fall 2021), with an average increase of 21 points. In addition, the number of students that started second grade “On” or “Above” grade level increased by 14 percentage points due to skills gained starting in Fall 2021 and retained through Fall 2022. (Schechter & Lynch, 2022b).

progress bars showing a 14 point bump in students on or above grade level.

The Impact of Multiple Tiers of Instruction

When structured literacy is placed in all tiers of instruction, students can catch up during the year and even have higher scores after the summer. This spotlight report focused on rising 2nd and 3rd graders in a Nebraska elementary school, with 86% coming from low-income households and most not speaking English at home. The school started using the 95 Phonics Core Program and the PLL during the 2020-2021 school year. When comparing change from Spring to Fall each summer over multiple years, the data showed that rising 2nd graders experienced a 63 percent decrease in learning loss over the summer months. The 3rd grader reduced the summer slide and grew over the second summer (200 percent reduction). This report suggests that explicit, systematic phonics instruction leads to greater retention of critical reading skills and, by extension, fewer students in need of intervention year over year. 

benefits of adding phonics products reduced summer slide

Evaluate Your Literacy Toolkit

Summer vacation is the perfect time to reflect on your school’s phonics program and examine benchmark student data to determine whether it is truly meeting the needs of your young readers. Check out our Supplemental Phonics Evaluation Guide and Rubic to strengthen your literacy toolkit. Providing students with evidence-based, systematic phonics instruction is the best way to ensure that they become strong readers and maintain their skills from year to year.