The summer slide: Real phenomenon or invented by tutoring companies? (with David Schipper)

My heart sinks when I see how polarizing topics in education have become, as well as the tendency for people to have “all or nothing” thinking.

I’ve seen an increasing amount of activities pitted against each other as if doing one means we can’t ALSO do the other:

👉Standardized testing vs. real-world observations/stakeholder interviews.

👉Year-round school vs. traditional summer break.

👉Critical thinking skills vs. foundational skills.

👉Play vs. academics during non-school time (after school or over the summer).

👉Soft skills vs. technical skills.

What if we stopped thinking about all of these things as opposing viewpoints, and instead tried to integrate them together? 

What if we stopped saying, “Should I do this or that?”, and instead started asking “How can I find a way to do this AND that”? 

I invited my colleague David Schipper to episode 162 of the De Facto Leaders podcast to ponder some of these questions.
Specifically, I wanted to tackle the “summer slide” debate. 

This topic is near and dear to me because I was a “summer slider”. I was almost held back in first grade because I was behind in reading, and my parents took it upon themselves to spend time with me after school during the school and over the summer to get me remedial instruction in reading through a combination of things they did at home, as well as tutoring programs they invested in. 

I was also shy and anxious, and needed a nudge from my very extroverted mom to participate in activities that allowed me to work with others, build friendships, handle frustration and learning curves, and develop mental flexibility. These experiences were essential in helping me to fully leverage the skills I was working on concurrently, like reading. But going to the pool for swim meets in the summer did not teach me to read; my academic instruction did. 

Had my parents decided to just “let me catch up naturally” and eliminated the reading tutoring from my early years, I wonder what kind of impact that would have had. 

Would I have turned into a lifelong learner? 

Would I have felt even more anxious due to the combination of struggling academically AND being really shy? 

Would the issue have been identified if standardized testing wasn’t done? 

In this interview David and I talked about how we can better answer these questions, starting with a discussion of the summer slide. 

David Schipper is the director of Strategic Learning Clinic, a position he has held since 2013. David obtained a B.A. in English Literature from Concordia University in 1998 as well as a B.Ed. in Secondary Education (English and History) from McGill University in 2002. After some work as a local teacher in Montreal, David founded 2Torial Educational Centre in 2007. Aside from his ability to put both parents and students at ease, David is able to help families get to the root of the problem(s) and propose the most suitable programs to resolve these issues. As a father of two children, David knows how to relate to the concerns of parents and as an experienced educator and passionately understands the struggles of students. His passion and dedication to teaching and learning is second to none.

*We briefly discussed a presentation that covered a sensitive topic in this interview. 

In this conversation, we discuss:

✅Is the summer slide real? Who is it impacting the most?

✅This isn’t just about summer: It’s about what we’re prioritizing in school.

✅The case of too many accommodations: What happens in the college years when we don’t build foundational academic skills before students graduate high school.

✅The layering of academic skills with executive functioning: Real life examples of how it looks when teenagers are planful with their time and when they aren’t. 

✅Tutoring: Yes, it’s needed; but what does good tutoring look like? 

In this conversation, I mention a number of other interviews relating to the topic of early literacy, so be sure to check the show notes for links to all of those other interviews in the show notes here:

In this episode, I mention Language Therapy Advance Foundations, my program that helps SLPs create a system for language therapy. You can learn more about Language Therapy Advance Foundations here:

I also mentioned the School of Clinical Leadership, my program that helps related service providers develop a strategic plan for putting executive functioning support in place in collaboration with their school teams. You can learn more about that program here:
The summer slide: Real phenomenon or invented by tutoring companies? (with David Schipper)