COVID-19, academic slide and summer learning

Desks sit empty as a teacher talks in front of a screen.
Fourth grade teacher Kelly Brant stands in her classroom as she talks to her students who were learning remotely in January at Park Brook Elementary School in Brooklyn Park.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News file

Summer school terms like “COVID slide” and “pandemic learning loss” are getting a lot of play these days.  

In Minnesota, we won’t know how a full-school year of interrupted learning affected student academic skills until standardized test data is released in August. But, anecdotally, we know many students lost momentum, especially low-income students and children who rely on school routines and school support for stability. Early test scores from other states confirm that students are lagging in reading and math.

MPR News guest host Nina Moini talks about how educators and families are using summer months to help students catch up, recover credits they need to graduate and get excited about school again. 


  • Stephanie Graff is assistant commissioner for the Office of Educational Opportunity at the Minnesota Department of Education. She’s also a former math teacher. 

  • Adam Kunz oversees summer programs for Saint Paul Public Schools. He previously managed St. Paul's alternative high school program Gateways to College and taught high school English.  

  • Nicole Hernandez is the youth development director at Children's Defense Fund Minnesota where she oversees Freedom Schools summer and afterschool programs. 

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