In “Summer School Is a Hot Idea Right Now. Could It Work?” Dana Goldstein and Kate Taylor write:
The idea makes sense, so much so that at least two governors, a national union leader and President Biden are behind it: extend this school year into the summer to help students make up for some of the learning they lost during a year of mostly remote school.
By summer, more teachers will be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Transmission rates might be significantly lower. And it will be easier in warm weather for students and educators to spend time in the open air, which is safer than being indoors.
Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia promoted the idea on Friday, saying that schools should make summer classes an option for families. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and Randi Weingarten, the powerful president of the American Federation of Teachers, have offered similar endorsements. Boston teachers and the district have started talking about summer options. And Mr. Biden is expected to ask Congress to approve $29 billion to fund summer programs and tutoring as part of his pandemic stimulus package.
The article includes possible objections to summer school:
Governors have few ways to compel districts to expand summer offerings. Local contracts typically make it impossible to require teachers to work over the summer, and a recent poll of educators found that only 19 percent support a shorter summer vacation in 2021 or 2022.
Teachers who did agree to work over the summer would need to be paid at a time when districts are already stretching their budgets to cover costs such as updating ventilation systems, hiring school nurses and testing staff and students for the coronavirus.
Kimberly Adams, president of the Fairfax Education Association, the teachers’ union in Virginia’s largest school system, said that reactions from teachers, parents and students to the idea of extending the school year were “definitely mixed.”
Her union in the suburbs of Washington has fought efforts to reopen schools before teachers are vaccinated, clashing with affluent parents who have pushed to get their children back in classrooms. But many of those same families typically send their children to pricey summer camps, or travel when school is out, and may be unlikely to sign up for a longer academic year.
Stephanie Fox, a high school math teacher in King George County Schools, where only a small number of students in the district have the option to attend in person, said she doubted that many educators in her district would be willing to teach summer school.
“Many of us are exhausted,” she said. “We’re only halfway through the school year, and I probably put in as many hours the first half as I normally do in a full year.”
The article ends by considering how summer instruction may help address academic gaps caused by economic disparity among families:
Research has shown that while upper-middle-class families often use the summer for structured activities like camp, athletic programs and visits to museums and libraries, children from low-income families can fall behind academically, in part because their parents cannot afford expensive enrichment programs and may not have time off from work to facilitate other activities.
But attempts to reform the school calendar to close these gaps have often run into opposition from parents who do not want to give up what they see as the birthright of a traditional long American summer.
Some education advocates hope that the disruption of the pandemic will help shift attitudes over the next several years, making it more palatable to help students who are struggling by keeping schools open over the summer, and by introducing longer school days and weeks all year round.
Students, read the entire article, then tell us:
Do you think summer school is a good solution for students who have fallen behind academically this year? Would you choose to participate in summer instruction if it were offered?
If expanded summer school is available, should it be mandatory? Explain your answer.
To what degree, if at all, do you think remote or hybrid learning has hindered you and your classmates academically, socially or developmentally?
How do you think other students — students at different grade levels or with different learning needs — have been affected by this challenging school year? Would summer school benefit them, and if so, in what ways?
The article says that there is no consensus on the form summer instruction should take, but it notes that experts have recommended enrichment activities in art, music and sports as well as a focus on core academics. What aspects do you think an expanded summer school should include? What qualities do you think might help entice reluctant students to embrace an extra semester in school? Explain.