School versus Summer Growth

"High-achieving" does not mean students are learning as much as they could in school

High-achieving students have similar summer and school year academic growth rates—indicating that they may not be receiving adequate challenge in school.

Research shows that there is inequality between typical students and high-achieving students when it comes to how much is gained from attending school. Students who start out as high-achieving showed similar academic growth rates during the summer and the school year. On the other hand, typical students improved during the school year, but not during the summer. The figure below is a representation of these trends. The dashed blue line for typical students shows achievement growth during the school year, but not during the summer. The solid purple line shows high-achieving student’s growth does not vary regardless of whether or not they were in school.

Summer vs. School Growth Chart


These results indicate that, on average, high-achieving students do not receive adequate challenge in school. If initially high-achieving students were receiving appropriately challenging curriculum during every academic year, growth would be higher during the school year than in the summer. These findings also indicate that high-achieving students do not benefit from school as much as the typical student.

Take action

Parents: You can use this information to advocate for gifted program services. Action steps you could take include meeting with a gifted program coordinator to examine your child’s progress and considering above-level assessments to provide insight into the level of challenge that is appropriate for your child’s educational needs.

Parents and educators: Research shows that providing reading instruction at least two grades ahead of each high-achieving student’s actual grade level may help buffer an inequality in achievement growth rates.

Download our flyer about school vs. summer growth (PDF).