School & District Management

AERA: Is There ‘Summer Melt’ for Social-Emotional Learning, Too?

By Sarah D. Sparks — April 11, 2016 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print


Even in the midst of spring testing and end-of-year projects, educators are already starting to worry about how much of the students’ hard-fought-for reading and math progress be forgotten over the lazy summer months. So-called “summer melt” is long studied in the academic world, but students’ social and emotional development may also regress when they are not in school, according to new findings presented at the American Educational Research Association meeting here.

University of Chicago and Northwestern University researchers tracked the academic and social-emotional development of more than 18,000 children in the federal Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, who entered kindergarten between 2010 to 2014. About a quarter of the students came from low-income backgrounds. Using both student assessments and interviews with the students’ parents, teachers, administrators and child-care providers, the researchers analyzed how the students progressed through kindergarten into the fall of their 1st grade year.

In addition to early-reading skills like letter and word recognition and early numeracy such as number sense, properties, and pattern recognition, the researchers also tracked four areas of social-emotional development:

  • Approaches to learning, such as organization skills, attentiveness, and ability to follow directions;
  • Interpersonal skills, such as the ability to share or work with others;
  • Levels of internalizing problems, such as social anxiety or loneliness; and
  • Levels of externalizing problems, such as aggressiveness or impulsivity.

Just as earlier studies have shown, the researchers found kindergartners’ math and reading growth significantly slowed during the summer months, particularly dropping off for children of mothers with low levels of education. However, the researchers also found that the development of students’ interpersonal skills and approaches to learning also suffered significant setbacks during the summer months: For example, a student who rated in the middle of the class in those two skills at the end of kindergarten fell by more than 7 percent of a standard deviation for every month she was out of school—a bigger dropoff than the loss found for reading and math over the summer.

“They really need the structure of school to remember what they need to do in school,” said Ijun Lai, Northwestern University researcher and study co-author, during a symposium on the study here.

There was no significant dropoff in aggression during the summer months—on average, students tended to act out more as they grew from kindergarten through 1st grade—but they did show significantly lower levels of internalizing problems over the summer months, suggesting children might have been better able to let go of academic stress or make new friends during the summer.

White schools “were not particularly benefitted or harmed” by the summer gap in young children’s social development, Lai said, there was the same income gap for the summer melt in social skills development as researchers have found in academic skills. That suggests that over time, low-income children and those of less educated parents could fall behind more advantaged peers in social adeptness and noncognitive school skills.

The findings come as states and districts are looking for ways to measure and improve social and emotional learning under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management 10 Ways to Tackle Education's Urgent Challenges
As the school year gets underway, we ask hard questions about education’s biggest challenges and offer some solutions.
2 min read
Conceptual Image of schools preparing for the pandemic
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management Reported Essay Principals Need Social-Emotional Support, Too
By overlooking the well-being of their school leaders, districts could limit how much their schools can flourish.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management From Our Research Center Educator Stress, Anti-Racism, and Pandemic Response: How You're Feeling
A new nationally representative survey offers key takeaways from teachers, principals, and district leaders.
EdWeek Research Center
1 min read
2021 BI COVER no text DATA crop
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management Download 8 Tips for Building a Digital Learning Plan That Conquers Chaos
Craft flexible strategies, encourage experimentation with new instructional models, and regularly solicit feedback.
1 min read
onsr edtech tips