Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Willing to Give Up Summer Vacation (if it meant better outcomes for all)?

Danny Westneat had a column in the Times last week about summer vacation for K-12 public schools students.  He boos the new initiatives for a longer school year (or even year-round) school on the premise that kids need the "value" of freedom?  He says:

Doesn't that value, of freedom, count anymore? Or is it all now about prepping for the 21st-century global economy.


I know, not everyone can go to the San Juans. But we could try to spread summer's spirit, instead of giving up on it.

Give more kids a chance to run free. It may not be "expanded learning time." It can expand you just the same.

Here's the thing.  If our schools had direct interventions during the school year for struggling students and enrichment for all and summer school for both remedial and enrichment, I'd say keep summer vacation.  But that is not happening or is happening in a piecemeal fashion.  Not good enough.

I know a couple of people (out of state) who had kids in year-round schools and they liked it.  They said planning any kind of vacation was easier (and sometimes cheaper because they weren't trying to go in the summer like everyone else).   Apparently, in some places, you get 3 week breaks throughout the year. 

So you would have to do planning for day care if that were the case, there's one problem.  On the other hand, there might be far fewer release days for professional development. 

What is most important to me (and why, when my kids were in school, I would have been willing to accept the change) is because we have large numbers of kids falling behind during the summer.  Most of them are kids who can't afford to fall behind.  It just creates a worse strain on the whole system when school is in session. 

I believe this is one place the feds could put their money (not RTTT).  Fund summer programs for struggling kids.  Do something that would really help.

At least Danny was honest about many parents not affording an "educational" vacation (or even wanting to take one).  That's why I ask if we, as parents, would look beyond what we would want for our families and think about the system as a whole. 

Thoughts?

49 comments:

David said...

Best thing might be to make longer hours (not only no summer vacation, but also extra time before and after school) opt out. So, parents can choose to pull their kids out of the extended day and school year but, unless they make that choice explicitly, their kids are in.

The vast majority would stay in the extended school day and year if it were opt out, so it would be equivalent to changing it for everyone without forcing anyone to do anything and without getting a lot of opposition to the change.

I'm ok with it said...

My sister lives in AZ and her kids have ALWAYS been in year-round school. They do get 3-week breaks a few times a year and about 4 in the summer (my nephew is visiting grandparents out of state right now). She has always found it 1)easier to get away during "non-peak" times and 2)that her kids fall back less with less time out of school.

They are not struggling students but her son in particular tends to regress in math even with the short-ish summer break. She notices less of a problem with the 3-week or less breaks.

The Sept.-June all summer off system is a holdover from agrarian days when kids were needed on the farms. I would be perfectly fine with a series of shorter breaks for EVERYONE. It's not like kids are shut up in schools all year with no vacations. But I don't see it happening-too many parents object to the very idea.

Bird said...

I absolutely support extended day and summer school for students who are behind or are at high risk for falling behind.

Extending the school year for everyone seems, at this point, like a waste of money. Get extended day, summer school and free preschool to kids who would benefit most first. If you can do that, and it seems exceedingly unlikely in this state, then we can talk about whether extended year makes sense for everyone.

Sort of reminds me of the 3 times a year MAP testing across the distrct. A lot of students don't need this level monitoring. Across the board changes just drain resources from the neediest students.

Central/south mom said...

Yeah, I'm not so sure my child would benefit academically from the longer day or year. He does some of his most intricate, imaginative work when he's "off the clock" and not mired in out-of-the-box lessons.
As school exists now (for him), I wouldn't want much more of it, but if it was a more intellectually/creatively nurturing environment... For sure! Of course he misses his school friends over the summer, but prizes the relative freedom.
But thinking of me and not him: YES. School hours make full-time work extremely challenging. I could use more quality childcare. And I can't afford day camps, much less San Juans.
And thinking of the poor (and academically ambitious but struggling) kids in my (south) neighborhood: I ran into them on the bus on the way home from work. The were coming from the library (yay!). I asked how summer was going. They said, boring! They had no plans, no camps, no
classes, though the eldest sister (high school) was tutoring
kids at the East African community center. (Communities stepping in to fill the summer academic gap?)

Anonymous said...

Year round school does not necessarily boost learning:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070811151449.htm

a reader

just sayin' said...

In many places across the US, school in summer would be unbearable due to the heat and old buildings without air conditioning.

Anonymous said...

Not meaning to be a party pooper...

Where's the $$$ going to come from? It costs money to have a building open and running.

When are the teachers going to do their summer schoolwork to keep their certificates? (You all remember that we have to pay tuition in the summer and take classes to keep our certificate to teach, didn't you?)

Not complaining or voting against...actually I have had many students who would benefit! Just asking pertinent questions.

--Just Wonderin'

SC Parent said...

PLEASE let us go to year-round school! It would keep kids in the "learning mode" throughout the year, avoid the "summer slip." 3 weeks might even be short enough to avoid the inevitable "I'm bored" during summer vacation. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Needing to find day care wouldn't be much more trouble than finding it for the summer. I would expect the same places would offer care.

Why would this cost more? You'd just be spreading out summer vacation into 4 chunks.

It would give teachers more chunks of time to recuperate and tweak lesson plans mid-year; the maintenance department could tackle projects throughout the year rather than cramming them all into the summer.

It also seems better for the kids - a brief period to recuperate, but also to keep learning/experiences fresh and exciting. For example, my kids could go to the aquarium once during each of the four breaks. How many times could I take them in current summer break before they got saturated? (*yes, I know, I can take them other times during the year, too, but that's not the point)

The only significant negative seems to be the lack of a single chunk of time to tackle big-ticket capital improvement items.


Though, I would also absolutely support extending the school year to provide 200+ days of instruction.

Jamie said...

They had this in my Northern California school district in the 70s - it was called 45/15. (Nine weeks on, three weeks off, all year 'round). It was abandoned after 3 or 4 years, it didn't seem to make much of a difference academically.

dj said...

I am an academic. Year-round school would make me send my kids private. I am supportive of summer programs for struggling students, though.

Anonymous said...

Given my personal and financial situation, I would not be in support of year round school. Though solidly middle class, we are able to afford some interesting, science- or art-based camps during the summer that supplement what my daughters learn throughout the year. I also work part time so my kids get what I consider to be well needed unstructured time. Plus, like Danny Westneat described, my kids are clearly more relaxed during the summer, and have time to pursue their own interests. The summer detox is important to their social, academic, and emotional well being.

I recognize that my family is lucky with our flexibility and financial security, and that what works for us doesn't work for everyone. I would certainly be in support of an opt-in program. I also wonder how this would be paid for.

I also realize that my academic expectations for my K and 3rd graders will likely change as they get older, so my opinion about year round school might change down the road. However, my kindergartner spends at least a 1/3 of her day standing in line or waiting for other kids to pay attention to her teacher. Frankly I'd rather additional resources go toward quality, rather than quantity, of education.

-southend parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good point, Just Sayin and Just Wondering.

Okay, so maybe the discussion should be for some government entity to get the lead out and support summer programs for struggling students (no matter what).

Catherine said...

Parent of a just graduated senior here, with 5 nieces and nephews in AZ on year round school.

I cannot support year round schooling. Until current school time is well used - I see no point in more time with the Where's the math books, and (MAP) testing time during the year. And with the 100's of distractions that got in the way of teaching on a regular basis. That is what will get shoved in the time. No thanks. I say deliver quality and focus in what we've budgeted under the current schedule. Then see where we are and if changing the school year around matters.

We still grow food in this country and state, and those kids still contribute heavily on the farms. Don't discount that just because that's not what us Westies do.

There's also continuing ed time to consider - when do teachers take most of their classes? Summer. That's been a problem in AZ.

In year round there's a frequent loss of meaningful summer job experiences for older students.

There's just no magic change that will improve scores. And frankly there are some meaningful flaws in the "Americans are falling behind" analysis. I'm not saying the situation is great, but I hold all sides accountable for their math and statistics, not just those who don't agree with me.

Bird said...

Okay, so maybe the discussion should be for some government entity to get the lead out and support summer programs for struggling students (no matter what).

Um, like maybe the school district?

Seriously, I was watching a relatively recent board meeting where Sherry Carr very earnestly asked if we can't find some money somewhere to send more teachers to class in the summer ( for professional development ).

It made me so sad because I haven't seen any of the board strugggling to figure out a way to save summer school for kids who need it.

Gah!

chunga said...

While in theory, it's reasonable to reconsider how to better configure the school year given peculiar reasons for the current situation, in practice, this really seems like a re-arranging the deck chairs (of the titanic) exercise. For one thing, schools are struggling to stay open and staffed as is. Secondly, it's the quality of education that matters much more than the duration. If folks are concerned about lack of enriching summer opportunities, then we should ensure public libraries are more fully funded (as well as community centers, museums, parks along with summer camps and other learning opportunities). There is ample evidence that access to reading materials from libraries can make a significant difference to children in poverty.

dan dempsey said...

Several years ago the Tucson area schools faced extreme over crowding at the middle school level. They came up with an interesting version of year round school.

If you put those 3 week breaks into a sequential order you get a 9 week section.... which is the length of one school quarter.

Breaking the school into sections that take the three week break at differing times will reduce the number of classrooms and seats needed for the school population. The following was done at the middle school level... This was related to me around 1990 by the Superintendent of the Chino Valley schools. He was in Tucson during this time of over-crowding. Note he had a district office in CV that was in a double wide mobile home. The DO consisted of himself and two or three others I believe. He paid the teachers to do most of the curriculum and instruction stuff that is done at the JSCEE. He placed 2nd in the Superintendent of the year voting in AZ the year before I visited him.

Check this out ... break each middle school grade level of students into four sections A, B, C, D only three of the four sections attend school at any point in time.

With a staggered Start of school things will look like this A, B, C are in session the opening three weeks and D is on vacation. Here are the three week sections:

3-3-3-3--3-3 -3-3--3 -3-3-3 --3-3-3 -3
A-V-A-A-.A-V-A-A-.A-V-A-A--A-V-A-A
B-B-V-B--B-B -V-B-.B-B-V-B--.B-B -V-B
C-C-C-V-.C-C-C-V-.C-C-C-V--C-C-C-V
V-D-D-D-V-D-D-D-.V-D-D-D-.V-D-D-D

Siblings in different grades were assigned to a section with the same letter to facilitate vacations.

The above covers 48 weeks so that Christmas Vacation and holiday Vacations are shared by all students


The really interesting piece in this was that if a student failed more than one class in a quarter. The policy was that the child would skip vacation and be assigned to a different section that was beginning a "school" session. This certainly improved the effort of middle school students ... as to provide interventions for failing students .. the plan was to cut out a 3 week vacation.

The number of F grades dropped significantly.

Once the Tucson School District expanded capacity with more buildings this plan was ended..., and the Middle School Student F grades returned to previous levels.

dan dempsey said...

Thoughts.... on the summer fall behind..

In Reading ... Books

In Math ....
Falling behind in Math during the summer .... or more likely falling further behind in Math during the summer....

Two Words

Khan Academy

Danny Westneat said...

Thanks for this post. FWIW, I'm not arguing against changing the school calender (say to have four 9 or 10-week terms, as some here have suggested.) What I'm really rebelling against is the idea of adding 300 plus hours to the calendar (which at current daily schedules would mean nine or ten more weeks of school, i.e. no summer break at all.) I bet that would wear down kid, parent and teacher alike. It's got to somehow be broken up with some freedom from the institution. Arne Duncan's notion of 6, 7 days a week, 11, 12 months a year seems like a recipe for turning everyone into drones. If we're really worried about summer slide, it would be cheaper and more targeted to establish summer programs for any kid who wants/needs one -- instead we're canceling the ones we had ...Keep on blogging!

Anonymous said...

Danny, I totally agree with you. Kids don't get enough unstructured imagination time as it is. Recent brain research is telling us that kids best build executive function (i.e., self-control, crucial to academic and social success) through.... free play.

--Educator

Zebra (or Zulu) said...

Three items of note:

First, teachers are currently paid for 182 days (+ or -). Therefore, adding additional days (say 300 hours) would mean increasing teacher salaries. This would cost about about thirty-six million dollars in Seattle alone. Won't happen.

Second, as mentioned above, most schools have no air conditioning. In fact they rely on circulated air in the spring and classroom temps still can exceed 80 degrees. Some buildings don't have windows that open. This won't work either.

Third, the kids are wiped out by June, as are their teachers. If you are not a teacher then you have no idea what kind of stress the months of May and June bring. The kids need to decompress. The teachers need it more.

This idea sounds more somebody is floating the idea to take soundings in Seattle. Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes.

Not me...

Anonymous said...

I'd much rather the time in school be used more efficiently and thoughtfully than add on more time.

-More bang for the buck

Jan said...

Glad you are reading, Danny. I totally agree with Educator. The "work" of children is play -- though we don't "test" for that, so it gets pretty much ignored. Kids desperately need down time for brain development, for creative and imaginative play that is not structured or assigned, and to destress from overly regimented school years.

Summer is when we do Marrowstone in the City, boy scout camp, church camp, Camp Sealth, hike (multi day, not just day hikes), go to the zoo and the acquarium. Summer gives kids who spend WAY too much time sitting, in the dark Seattle winter months, a chance to get out and play, go to a neighborhood soccer camp, etc. And -- they are not having to "squeeeeeze" this stuff in after school or on weekends. They have all day!

I am with the reader above who says that if schools dramatically increased "school time" -- I would take my kids and leave.

Now, mind you -- we read like crazy during the summer, go to various "camps" based on kid interest and enthusiasm, travel (a little -- not much, we can't afford it), and we keep up with math. I suspect that each of my kids has entered the school year ahead of where they left off in math the prior spring. But the reading/math we do over the summer takes less than an hour a day (unless they want to read more by choice), and is scheduled when THEY want it. There are no lines. There are no complicated "mean" kids. There are no grades. Just good books and enough math materials to keep the pot boiling.

We adults, in schools, waste SO much of our kids' time (and their lives) as they stand around in line, wait for other kids to pay attention, do "worksheets" that teach them nothing so the teacher has time to work with another group of kids, teach them by ineffectual, time-wasting ways what could be taught more quickly (and I am not talking about project based instruction methods that may take longer periods of time for "deeper/richer" learning -- I am talking about flat out bad curriculum that takes a ton of time, and yields weak, mediocre results).

If, when we are using the time we have wisely, someone can demonstrate that kids would lead better, happier lives if they went 190 or 200 days, instead of 180 -- I will consider it. But let's start by getting serious about better using the time we have (it's also much cheaper).

Anonymous said...

Think of how much time could be regained in the classroom if the MAP testing was dropped, both from the time used to take the test and the time used to teach to it. Plus we'd save buckets and buckets of money, and let the kids have access to their school libraries again.

-feeling snarky today

peonypower said...

I'm with Danny- so much of what summer is about is decompressing and having time to draw or read or watch bugs in the grass. I don't think struggling kids need more desk hours. They need the opportunity to go to day camps and be creative and get messy. Why not fund for free and fun summer programs for all kids. It's got to be cheaper than more school hours. I think some of the best learning comes from placed based education and all kids should get the chance to do this. The research on the impact of place based education show that it helps all students improve in math, science, and reading. Why we don't do more of it I don't know. Something to do with the fear that if you call it "environmental education" you might be teaching kids to be left wing tree hugging socialists.

I know that my own kids creativity soars in the summer, and we have never had much money for camps, but they keep busy making and doing all summer. Now that they are older we often watch documentaries that provoke discussion and research by all of us. Being creative is like anything else it takes practice and time, and often the school year does not allow much time or space for just creating.

I don't take on projects during the school year, but I collect materials all year for July when I put my sewing machine on the deck and I create like mad. I realized after my first couple of years teaching that using my hands helps clear the brain and I come back in September ready to teach and filled with ideas. Plus I take at least a 2 week class every summer in addition to taking care of the garden at school. I average 60-70 hour weeks during the school year and frankly I'm wiped out by June. Most teachers I know work the same hours. If I had to work year round with those same hours I don't think I could keep it up without either getting ill or getting complacent.

With our current school system driven by testing and standardization I say no to a longer year, but if the revolution that I long for happens (truly student centered education) then you would have to kick kids out at the end of the day, and I would say bring it on MacDuff.

KG said...

Not until the district stops lying about how much they are waisting on the Central Bloat.

BB said...

Are you kidding? We can't even afford summer school for those struggling students who have ALREADY failed a class in SPS. Remember, we've cut it, along with night school. How in the heck would we fund year round school?

But besides the cost, I dislike the idea of year round school. I think many children need a break. Kids learn and grow in many ways, academically being only one of those ways. Summer provides a host of opportunities for children, whether it's travelling, or an adventure camp, or fishing with a grandparent, or camping, playing pick up basketball with friends, and just plain learning how to be resourceful when they get bored.

That said, I do wish we could fund summer and after school enrichment programs for all of the kids who need or want it. And, I'd like to see a handful of SPS schools be year round "choice" schools so families who are interested can opt in. But I hate, hate, hate the idea of imposing year round school on every child in the district regardless of need or desire.

dan dempsey said...

Hey I think I shall make a Big investment in Big Pharma stocks on companies that are big into anti depressants.

Given the talk about enormous amounts of school and little time for play or relaxation ever ... I see big growth in anti depressants for say the next 75 years.

Anonymous said...

For those who want it or need it, we should have good summer school programs.

But after 9 months of SPS BS, year after year, my wife & kids and I need the decompression, even if it means my kids sleep late, & lay around. They still play sports, read, watch a little TV, eat well at home, play with the dog in the yard, etc., without needing to cut everything short for homework or bed. They work hard as hell for 9 months straight & they deserve the break. We all got it, so who are we to once again give our kids less than we got growing up?

I'm not one who laments how bad the future will be, given that politics and greed have ruined this country, not high school dropouts or falling math scores. The dropout rates were higher back in the agricultural days btw.

Struggling kids could use the extra help. For the rest, give them a break, whether they get to Yellowstone or Greenlake. Sitting around doing very little without a care in the world is what childhood is supposed to be about. They'll have the rest of their lives to work themselves to death. WSDWG.

Anonymous said...

Funny you mention anti-depressants Dan. Sometimes depression is not an illness to be cured, but an appropriate response to a really lousy situation that needs to be changed. So long as we have unrealistic expectations and keep piling responsibility upon our kids to fix what we - the adults - have broken with our greed and stupidity, we condemn a lot of kids to unnecessary pain and suffering.

I hope Dante had it wrong, or eternity is going to suck for a lot of us. WSDWG

Unknown said...

Teacher here: Lots to comment on. I like a longer school day but would like a little longer planning time and can enrich more with children. Our curriculum is becoming "same-page every day" aligned and is losing a lot of opportunity for creativity. Lines - where? C'mon. There are few lines in school. Lunch line maybe. Not the rest of the day. It's not a train station.

Year-round school not a bad idea. I like the idea of three-four weeks off at intervals. I know a lot of kids that get bored over summer break. Having breaks throughout the year might challenge some parents for small trips but you'll get over it and find out there really are more seasons than summer.

I get more professional development during the year than I know what to do with currently. Please, drop the credit-requirement and let teachers have some time off as well. I've taken classes over again because there are few I haven't taken. Experience is the best teacher. The District does provide pretty good training and development. How dumb do you think we are?

Yes, our year is 180 (182?) days and more days will require additional money. You don't work for free and neither do I. Well, yes I do when you count the late nights and weekends working on school work. You have to be there I guess. I sure don't know when you people think we correct papers,do report cards, and plan our days. If you ask any spouse of a teacher, they will be glad to share their story.

Longer school days - that's what I want. Time to enable kids to process all that we're teaching them. Honestly, we're going faster and faster and that's not best practices in anybody's book.

Kids do need purposeful lives. Too much free time regardless of how you spell "creativity" doesn't really contribute to it. Purposefulness will go a lot further in that domaine.

Joanie said...

I figured out how to get my name published. Sorry for the previous "unknown" as well.

Joanie said...

I have to add one more thing: working with twenty-eight (my number) primary kids is not a picnic. Imagine every hour every day filled with talking responding monitoring, disciplining, and teaching without a break. I do playground duty at recess(not everyday) and off-and-on morning playground duty for a week. We have a forty-minute lunch which is usually fifteen-minutes much of the year because we have little ones to manage and work to catch up on or get ready. Parents visit before school after school and during school. Think about monitoring and managing two or three primary kids all day every day and multiply it by nine or ten. Get the idea?

Itis labor intensive and it's not going to change. I love it but I don't want to be taken for granted or taken advantage of. So, when you post all your good ideas, remember teachers are human beans, too. (Catwings readers will get that.:) We need breaks.

Joanie said...

Sorry - there's nothing "efficient" about kids.

Speechless said...

I'm with David regarding the opt out. My kids thrive during summer. They do more art during a week of camp than during the whole academic year, the same goes for science experiments and contact with nature, to name just a few of the educational opportunities they have each summer. And did I mention how the meet with friends and organize lemonade stands, book clubs, and even put on plays? No, I would not give up summer vacation.

Anonymous said...

I love the 9/3 idea. What i find absolutely astonishing is that no-one thinks camp will exist if we go to year-round. Who sends their kids to camp for 6 weeks and expects them to get much out of it (other than daycare options)? I was done after a week at camp as a kid. It only takes one or two districts making the switch, and the camp companies will change their plans as well. It'll be nice for them to have the steady revenue throughout the year.

I agree that time to play is important to kids, but I see far too many kids who sit on their butts and play video games all summer. Kids who relax and play will do so, regardless of the timeline. A bunch of my students were more active at school with a mandatory PE class than at home, and had access to resources that allowed them to experiment and have tactile interactions that they otherwise would never have had (the spatial ability and manipulative skills of students, especially lower income, were astonishingly low).

Year-round could decrease class sizes (please let that actually happen) and, as mentioned, allow for students to more easily be remediated; without as many financial and social repercussions.

If the curriculum is revamped the way it needs to be to reflect the new schedule (think college quarter style), then the interest level can be maintained a bit better. Students will hit significant benchmarks more quickly, and simply changing the name of a class from math 1 to math 2 feels like an accomplishment, even if math 1-4 is the same math that was learned on the regular schedule. There might even be a chance for students to get away from a teacher they don't click with, or stay with those that suit them better.

Additionally, I expect that the number of interruptions to the school schedule will decrease dramatically as well. I cannot believe how disjointed the schedule is. I think I never had 2 weeks of uninterrupted routine. We had half days, 3-day weekends, assemblies and fire drills non-stop. I know that the drills are state mandated, but the rest of it was unbelievable. In the 6 weeks between winter break and mid-winter break, I didn't have a single week without an interruption. Cram in two three day weekends and the usual first of the month half-day and you've already lost continuity for 4 weeks. Of course kids suffer after spring break, the don't get to spend it relaxing because MSP/HSPE/WASL is right afterward, and there's a horrid long stretch from the end of spring break to June with only one 3-day weekend, and of course the weather is getting nicer. After the constant interrupted weeks, that stretch is a hard adjustment as is, then add that since the testing is done no-one thinks there's any point to learning any more.

The only real drawback I can see is for high school students who may rely (and have families who rely) on money from summer jobs. Something needs to be done for these students even on the current schedule.

Former teacher

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny how everyone's an expert on "at risk" students? The proposal that "at risk" students go to summer school, and to wonderful "intervention", and to "charter" school, and have TFA are all just ideas that are "good for somebody else." Danny had a great point about school being institutional was a great one. We all need summer vacation. Have you ever been to summer school? It's even more of a waste than the school year! A whole bunch of "at risk kids" crammed together in a boring class isn't really what anybody needs, San Juans or not.

-parent

dj said...

Parent, I don't think that there is anything so sinister about suggesting that summer school ought to be available for kids who are struggling academically. Kids do lose ground academically over the summer. I'd like to see it available for all kids who might want it -- I was not a struggling student, but took some summer school classes so that I would have enrichment opportunities -- but it is harder to argue for enrichment classes than it is for classes that might help kids get up to grade level.

Rose M said...

I think that school takes enough hours as it is for the amount of learning that can happen in that environment.

What can be taught in school is very limited because of the scripted lessons, overstuffed classrooms, overworked teachers, narrow & shallow curriculum, and the regimented approach to learning. At minimum, kids are supposed to learn to read, write & do math. But they have too much homework to allow time for reading, the teachers have too many students to give meaningful feedback on writing and they only master use of graphing calculators in math.

Outside of school hours my children have to learn geography, economics, European history, computer programming and heavily supplement science and math that is not taught in school. They also have to complete classes that can not fit in their high school schedule. Even in the area where my child has a learning disability, I have to teach at home because the special education lessons offered at school don’t work. During school & homework hours my children estimate that less than 20 percent of their time is spent learning academics, often inefficiently at that.

Then there are the things that I am expected to teach my children at home. They have to learn to cook, drive, repair things, buy things, banking, read a contract, make a budget, maintain relationship with neighbors, household chores, find a job, work a job, self advocate, practice good nutrition, exercise, write a letter, pay taxes, vote, volunteer, leadership skills, take responsibility, admit fault, deal with emergencies, recognize& maintain healthy relationships, relate to other age groups like children & the elderly, evaluate risk, make decisions, identify and use personal strengths, negotiate, grow things, take care of the environment, work hard, be in the wilderness, plan, organize, manage time, communicate across cultures, know basic laws & community rules, regulate emotions, experience art galleries & music & drama performances, read a map, when & how to access medical care, motivate themselves to do unpleasant tasks, make a phone inquiry, meet civic responsibilities, swim, deal with stress, et cetera. They also need time to pursue their own interests, to read, create, invent, and experiment. Most of these things require free time because they are best learned by experience and play.

My kids can't devote any more time to school.

sharpeas said...

I support voluntary summer school with remedial as well as enrichment courses. They had this in cash strapped Santa Monica when we lived there and the classes filled up fast. They were really fun and creative. Plus the kids who were struggling had several months to catch up. It's a great way to go.

Anonymous said...

If children are bored, I wonder if they are just waiting for someone to tell them what to do because they don’t know how to do anything else?

- That's sad.

Anonymous said...

dj - summer school doesn't really work, just like "intervention" doesn't really work. If they haven't figured out how to make plain old regular hours work, why would extra ones be so effective?

-parent

Jan said...

parent -- I completely agree. We don't really do "education" very well. And so, what -- our solution is to inflict even MORE of it on kids?

If you make it a "choice" --just like some kids now choose to advance a year in math by doing the summer stretch classes at the UW, that is fine by me. Those kids "choose" to forgo whatever they would be doing for 5 or 6 weeks during the summer, for a program of known quality and benefit. But I loathe the idea of "forcing" kids who are "behind" into 8 or 9 weeks of "more of the same," -- when for many (most?), part of the problem is that the entire method -- class sizes, curriculum, textbook and pedagogy choices, etc. etc., is already not working for them.

And -- they are trading off whatever they would otherwise be doing. Can we assume that "those kids" will all otherwise sit home playing violent video games and eating doritos? I don't think so. Can/should we totally discount the value of "decompression" time, just because they are getting D's instead of B's? Why would we do that?

TechyMom said...

I agree that "more of the same" isn't likely to make much difference, with the possible exception of HS credit recovery. It would be nice if there were more free or low-cost options for quality enrichment, acceleration and catch-up programs during the summer. I love what my kid is doing this summer, and so does she, but it cost a bloody fortune. Something that might be actually useful would be a need-based scholarship system for kids who want to do more structured activities during the summer. Something modeled on the college financial aid system, perhaps? Or is that too close to vouchers?

Megan Mc said...

Here's an email I sent to Dr. Enfield and School Board Directors,

In the hope that you will have a spare moment in your crazy chaotic schedules, I am passing along an idea that I had around redesigning schools to meet the needs of all of Seattle's families. I understand the complexity and expense of piloting a program such as this but it seems as though there are grant possibilities for innovation schools. It could be tested out as an optional pathway using a school within school model at first and then scaled up if it were successful. It would be ideal to have a pathway in each attendance area to provide a broad demographic for data analysis - ie Rainier View, Aki Kurosi MS, Rainier Beach HS or Catherine Blaine K-8, McClure MS, Ballard HS or Viewlands, Whitman MS, Ingraham or Madrona K-8, Washington MS, Garfield HS.

Elementary, K-8, and Middle School Model
9:00-2:00 core day and a 2:00-4:30 extended day. Transportation would be tied to the extended day program. This would provide meaningful activities for at risk students, help working families reduce child care expenses, and allow families who have the means and desire to pick their child up at the end of the regular day.

- have the core school day focused on an enriched curriculum with art, music, physical education, literature, science and math, social studies, and field trips. The purpose of this part of the day would be content knowledge, performance, and social development.

- have the extended day program focused on academic skill development and mastery (reading, writing, math) and behavioral interventions (counseling, group social skills). Parents would have to formally opt their child out of the extended day and provide their own transportation home.

- any homework assigned could be done during the extended day portion when the kids who need help structuring their time can get it and those who need help to do it would have access to it. Parents who would rather work with their kids at home would have the option of doing that.

High School Model (would not follow the split time model but would still have the extended hours 8:00-4:30 with flexible schedules)
High schools would be non-grade leveled and focused on career exploration and advanced content application. Each student should have advisor that helps the students and their families develop a learning and career path. Students would have individualized schedules based on interests, needs, skills, and talents - students who wanted to play sports could arrange for am classes and students who wanted to sleep in could take later classes as long as they were taking the classes they needed to.

- Classes could have pre-requisite skills and because they are offered to students of any age, a student could develop the skill and then take the course the next year or semester.

- Advisories or homerooms could be grade-leveled to provide socially appropriate setting for social development and students could work on health, community service, and civics activities.

- Mandatory study halls for students who are not turning in assignments and optional study halls for students who need the structure or support.

continued...

Megan Mc said...

continued

Teachers would have two career paths - content specialists or skill specialist.

- content teachers would focus on delivering content knowledge and developing lessons that teach kids how to apply that knowledge in a variety of ways. Under this model, teachers would have an easier time differentiating because they could adjust the level of difficulty of the content delivery to match the students (ie read this passage on Columbus written at a 3rd grade level vs listen to the passage on tape or read this passage written at an 8th grade level). They could also differentiate at the performance level (how the kid demonstrates understanding and applies the concept learned) - ie find a picture that represents the concept vs create an experiment that demonstrates the concept or write a paper explaining it. In this model, kids would expect to be doing things differently from each other from day one so there would be less stigma about having different materials or assignment.

- reading, writing, and math specialists would do direct, individually focused work with students who desperately need intense time and attention in order to master the necessary academic skills. This would allow for all students to have an IEP to develop academic skills while providing for inclusion in regular classes and activities.

- teachers would divide up the standards to ensure that everything is covered.

- hire counselors and mental health professionals to work with kids and families who need that support.

GreyWatch said...

wow, i'm surprised there is so much support for the old school summer break. seems like three weeks is plenty of time to decompress and get stung by nettles. 12 weeks off is a bit much.

Jan said...

Greywatch: I would be willing to consider different ways of dividing the 12 weeks (like the 9 - 3 concept). Though my kids like the opportunities that come with one longer break, there are countervailing "opportunities" and benefits of more frequent, but shorter, breaks. What I don't want to see, though, is 210 or 220 days per year, on some misguided notion that because some kids are way behind, forcing ALL kids to endure what we dole out as "school" for an extra month or so is a solution. Not only is it very expensive -- I think it creates a host of problems and solves very few of the ones we have (I don't think another month of Discovery math and Writers' workshop isn't going to advance the ball).

That Passionate Teacher said...

The 9-3 system Dan detailed above looks very intriguing. The first thing that jumped out at me was the challenge with staffing it.

In order to pull off that kind of system, you would have to have staff on the same schedule as the kids. Otherwise, when do the staff take their breaks? If you have a staff person on the same schedule as group A, they literally cannot have any group B, C, or D kids or they end up leaving them for three weeks when their break comes!

This means splitting not just your student population, but your staff as well into what essentially becomes four small schools.

Problem with that is that the current structure of the schools isn't conducive to that kind of split without some major re-envisioning.

Elementaries (most of them) are too small to split each grade in four. You could split each grade in two and do half as many splits, or offset every other grade--but then you get into the potential problem of having families with sibs at different grade levels split between different breaks.

Middle schools might be the perfect size for this schema. Given that the example comes from a solution to middle school overcrowding, the track record is there to show it could work (and work well).

High Schools would be a total nightmare. In high schools, you have subject specialists all over the building. You couldn't really even schedule it so that each grade is on a different schedule, since many teachers teach multiple grades (not to mention that would guarantee splitting sibs on their breaks).

Personally, I love the idea of a 9-3 schedule. Less slip, more frequent refreshes. I like the aspect of "if you're failing, you don't get your break" from the rotating 9-3 schedule Dan detailed (THAT's motivation for you!).

I'll have to ponder on this one for a while. I'm pretty sure we could tweak that idea to do something really neat that would work at all levels!

Anonymous said...

Rose M has it right. There is so much learning that needs to happen outside school, now more than ever, since school is pretty much only for EDM and WW/RW and the occasional science kit if you feel like it. As a fourth grade teacher, I'm seeing the results of kids who have been so narrowly educated that they can't find Seattle on a map, much less anywhere else!
Funny-but-sad story: last week at summer science camp (teachers have the summers off, remember?)I ran out of green paint. I joked to the kids that it was lucky I went to kindergarten, because I knew I could mix blue and yellow to get more green. There were actually kids amazed and impressed by that! I then thought to myself, it was lucky I went to K at a time when kids could mess around with pots of tempera! Why should we, as teachers have to feel subversive when we tuck other non-MSP learning into the corners of the day, and hope an administrator doesn't walk in and see us teaching OT?
As long as the curriculum is so barren, long live summer vacation!

Sneakyteacher