After my last post on parental involvement a week ago, a good friend of mine let me know about two issues on which I could have been much clearer. First, I singled out specific organizations for establishing initiatives to address the issues of education in Delaware when, in reality, there are a number of individuals and organizations that have spent a considerable amount time on working with the state and the Delaware community to engage citizens in the debate. Secondly, Delaware’s “Race To The Top” (RTTT) plan is uniquely its own and not based on one country’s school system. In the development of Vision 2015, the Steering Committee studied and drew from many of the concepts that Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, had used for recommendations. While Delaware’s RTTT plan uses some of the concepts of Vision 2015, it is its own autonomous creation.
When I went back to research some of these issues, I realized that Edmonton also put a premium on structured education during the summer. Like many former students, when I hear the term “Summer School”, I get visions of Mark Harmon in the 1987 classic movie of the same name with stereotypical issues that many parents fear – a classroom filled with bored students, stressed-out teachers, and low energy from all the parties involved. As a country, we need to begin changing the paradigm of what school between June and August can become. Edmonton actively promotes its summer programs. The term “Summer School” in Edmonton is markedly different than in the U.S.; they even title their program “Summer Cool School” for Grades 1-9. Studies have shown that students have 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency loss in mathematics during the Summer and that low income students generally lose about 2 months of reading achievement during the Summer (middle income students experience slight gains in reading performances during the Summer). As a child, I remember my parents and grandparents closely monitoring my summer reading lists from Lombardy Elementary, P.S. DuPont Elementary, and Hanby Junior High School. These reading lists provided me with a strong foundation for success throughout the school year. I also had a generous assortment of mathematics problems to ensure that those skills were also up to par. However, I do realize that I was in the minority in that regard. For many low income students, their school provides much needed structure, support, and safety that is not present in their households and neighborhoods. The incorporation of Summer School programming is vital to reducing the achievement gap and maintaining a student’s momentum going into the fall semester.
As parents, we need to make sure that we stay informed about which organizations and community groups provide our students with services during the summer to stimulate their minds and maintain the knowledge that they have accrued during the school year. From generational research, I realize that the Millenials, who are students born between 1979 and 1994, and Generation Z students, who are students born between the early 1990s and the early 2000s, are different than past generations. For the typical college-aged student, they have played over 10,000 hours of video games, watched over 20,000 hours of television, and have read less than 5,000 hours. Something must change – either how we educate children or what we do as parents to prepare our children for the future. I am going to err on the side of the latter and make sure that I am doing everything in my power to prepare them for the future. That preparation for the future may entail the effective use of summer school as a mandatory component to my children’s education. Now is the time to develop compelling programming to capture the students’ imagination and ensure their success.