Waving good-bye to summer break?

Indianapolis Public Schools’ superintendent Eugene White held a public meeting yesterday to disucss a plan for a year-round schedule for IPS. One opposing parent quoted in the article expressed worries about decreased opportunities for travel and outside-the-classroom educational experiences during summer break. Superintendent White in response cited statistics that 76 percent of IPS kids come from single-parent homes where such opportunities are an “anomaly.”

So what’s the issue here? The same as it always is with the year-round/traditional schedule debate: summer brain drain. Over half the achievement gap between low- and high-income children can be explained by the disparity in summer learning opportunities, according to the National Summer Learning Institute, which seeks to enhance educational opportunties for children in the summer.

Ideally, parents would be engaged and involved in their children’s lives and would possess the resources to open up new windows for learning outside the classroom during the summer. But clearly, that isn’t the case. Given what we have to work with in IPS, what are viable solutions?

What springs to mind is either 1) a full-year school calendar — but how much extra public money is need to fund such a switch? — or 2) increased awareness and availability of nonprofit programs designed to offer summer learning experiences. Without delving deeper into the issue, I’m currently inclined to support the latter, since I’m not convinced the amount of learning that IPS would provide over the summer would justify any extra spending. Strategic grants and incentives from the government can help spur the nonprofit programs Indianapolis already has and encourage new ones.

One final thought…if IPS goes to a full-year calendar, what will other districts surrounding the city do? In the name of equity, will well-to-do districts whose parents are amply able to provide summer enrichment also sqwack for a longer school year? Free summertime babysitting certainly would be handy for dual-income jet-setting households whose main participation in their children’s education is via a checkbook. It’s the same problem as above — lack of parental support– but caused by apathy rather than a degree of inability to address summertime learning loss.

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2 thoughts on “Waving good-bye to summer break?

  1. There’s very little you have to say to me to convince me that having a big gap between May and September hurts kids, educational outcomes-wise. However, at the same time, I know a lot of the kids I taught who were below-level were attending summer school. I have no idea how successful that really was. On the positive side, the class sizes were smaller, so teachers could really focus on those kids. On the negative side, I don’t think too much was going on besides learning out of test workbooks and certain classes of kids, like kids in special education, were exempt.

    Also, I’m pretty dubious about the statistic that half of the achievement gap is explained by lack of summer learning opportunities. I’ll try to read the study cited and comment again on their results.

  2. Interesting post, Sara. I agree with Laura that HOW summer school is administered counts. It seems that we’d really need people dedicated to providing a quality summer program teaching, instead of worn-out teachers who want a break over the summer. Maybe that would be an argument for getting nonprofits more involved instead of running it through the LEA’s.

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