Over the last two summers, I have been closely watching a K-12 school in North India. I don’t work there, I happen to have visited it on many occasions and keep in close touch with the Principal. Some stats:
- The school has an average fee of $20 a month.
- For 93% of the children, English (the language of instruction in School) is not the language of instruction at home.
- Disposable incomes at home are limited: enrollment is low in Summer Camps/Schedules- the often mentioned resistors to summer learning loss.
- In most families, the children are first-generation learners; parents (by training or due to work) are unable to help create learning opportunities for the children.
- Teaching Staff is underpaid, plans to get them to work for a part of the summer met with fierce resistance.
- Many students are unable to engage constructively with work set for completion over the summer.
The school has noticed the Summer Learning Slide in a majority of students in almost all classes.
(Above: Ouuch! That Hurt! Lots of Kids are academically hampered by the long summer)
What is the Summer Learning Slide? Here is an excerpt from the John Hopkins University website:
Research from the Center for Summer Learning at The Johns Hopkins University shows that teachers spend a good deal of time in the fall re- teaching skills that were lost during the summer. Students fall an average of almost 2.6 months behind in math skills, but for low-income children, the slide in reading is particularly harmful: They fall behind an average of two months in reading while their middle- income peers tend to make slight gains. By fifth grade, low-income children can be as much as 2.5 years behind in reading. And a recent study of Baltimore students by Johns Hopkins researchers showed that 65 percent of the achievement gap between poor and affluent children can be explained by unequal summer learning experiences during the elementary school years.
But all accounts, several of the children at this school are low-income. The management and some of us well-wishers have been trying to negotiate the summer learning slide and as one antidote, have been considering Year-Round Calendars.
Look at this comparison from an ASCD article:
At first glance, the idea seems worth exploring further:
1. Shorter, more frequent breaks mean less loss of learning, especially in the languages. Hence, it also means more time learning as teachers will have to spend less time ‘catching up’ as they would have to do after a longer break.
2. Children who need remedial help can be brought to speed over these breaks. In a traditional calendar with longer terms they may have fallen behind and would continue to fall even further behind without help.
3. On-going development for teachers can be more effective with more opportunities for feedback over the breaks following implementation of new ideas learnt during term-time.
It does mean that the kids would have to endure a hot summer at school for longer. Also, timing vacations with Daddy’s time away from work may be difficult if Little Joey goes to a school that follows a traditional calendar.
A poll run by ASCD last year asked the following question: What is the most effective way for schools to maintain student success over the summer?
Option Respondents Favouring
Go to a year-round calendar 39.11%
Summer school for lower achievers 12.4%
Encourage enrichment (camp, hobbies) 8.43%
Assign work (packets, projects) 40.06%
We need your help on this one! Have you debated this in your school system? Does your School or District work on a Year Round Calendar? What are your own thoughts on this?
#1: Prisoners No More: An Educational Leadership article that debates Year Round Schooling
#2: Summer Tips from Johns Hopkins
#3: Homepage of the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins. They have some excellent resources.
1. Tulips by Jeandela via flickr.
2. Summer slide by Photoblog