Growth in literacy and numeracy achievement: evidence and explanations of a summer slowdown in low socio-economic schools

Colleen Vale, Mary Weaven, Anne Davies, Neil Hooley, Kristy Davidson, Daniel Loton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The phenomenon of summer slide or setback has gained a great deal of attention in the USA. It is understood to account for as much as 80 % of the difference in achievement for students between low and high socio-economic families over their elementary schooling. In a mixed method longitudinal study of reforms in low socio-economic school communities in Victoria, Australia this phenomenon in the achievement growth of primary and secondary school students for both literacy and numeracy was identified. The longitudinal analysis of achievement data revealed decelerated growth during Terms 4 and 1, the spring and summer months in the Australian school calendar. In this article we present these findings and the reflections of Principals, literacy and numeracy leaders and coaches about these findings and their suggestions for action. We argue that reforming school practices during Terms 1 and 4 and developing a deeper understanding of students' out-of-school learning and knowledge are essential for enhancing growth in achievement from September to March and for narrowing the achievement gap between marginalised and advantaged students. Further research of this phenomenon in the Australian context is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalThe Australian Educational Researcher
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Achievement growth
  • Improving literacy outcomes
  • Improving mathematics outcomes
  • School reform
  • Social justice
  • Summer slide

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