Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer school is in jeopardy. And the problem is?

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The national news has finally got the news that summer schools around the country are in doubt as the budget woes in state legislatures continue.  While politicians are lamenting the closure of off-season "education", count me among the teachers that views the summertime crutch as an unnecessary waste of resources. 

Let's be honest, summer schools do provide a good education for students.  Yet the students that attend these sessions are given the impression that you don't need to pass the 7 month version of the class because the 6 week one will be just as valuable.  Um, reality check anyone?  When I taught my one summer school class years ago (not in my current district), I was told that "the students failed in the million dollar show, so given the ten cent show", and that's exactly what happened.  They got a textbook and a packet of worksheets to work on while I sat back and lesson planned for my future in Ukiah.  They learned nothing, they gained nothing, and the atmosphere had the typical "credit factory" feel.  From what I've seen, summer school hasn't changed much.  Students are given a little instruction and told to brave the book on their own, with little meaningful interaction for learning.

We know that two types of students usually attend summer school; the student that wants to jump ahead, and the student that failed a course.  Neither is being helped by a system that can't possibly allow for the retention of knowledge or the development of critical thinking within the time period allotted.

We haven't even touched on the economic aspect of  summer school.  In Ukiah, students are not only taught, but also bussed and fed (and bussed from a distance), which creates serious economic implications for an already cash-strapped district. 

In the end, I would seriously consider either ending the practice of summer school, creating a trimester style system that gives students one session off, or at the very least, make the students pay for summer school.  The system is being taken advantage of now, dipping into the pockets might be a motivation for families to get more involved in student lives during the school year. 

AP article on summer school closures.

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