In the News: Leg Up or Catch Up? Wealthier Students Use Summer School to Get a Step Ahead

Summer school has become a place where some students do remedial work to make up an “F” grade while other students take advanced classes to get ahead.
ednext-june2016-blog-ototn-summer-schoolAS UCLA education researcher John Rogers explains in a story on KPCC

This is the result of an academic arms race in the state,  in which the public university system “has increasingly raised the demands for admission so students across the broad system are looking to see how they can position themselves competitively for that system.”

To combat what they refer to as the summer school achievement gap, the story explains, educators in less affluent areas are trying to create more summer programs that are not remedial.

For instance, in Long Beach

About 8,000 students there are taking summer school — the vast majority are there to make up low grades in academic classes. Still, the school district has close to 400 students “taking one of six different courses at Long Beach city where they’re taking a college class that will count not only for college but will count for dual credit for us here in Long Beach Unified,” said Superintendent Chris Steinhauser.

The program is a partnership with Long Beach City College. The college pays the students’ tuition; the school district pays for books.

What about a more radical way of combatting the expansion of the achievement gap over the summer?

As Matt Chingos notes

Summer is a popular time to write opinion pieces calling for the end of summer vacation as an anachronism that widens achievement gaps between rich and poor students.  The details of the argument vary—see examples from summers 20092010,20112012 and 2013—but the basic premise rests on research indicating that students from disadvantaged backgrounds experience learning loss over the summer while their more affluent peers often make learning gains.

“There’s clearly a slam-dunk case for eliminating—or at least dramatically shortening—summer vacation,” Chingos writes, “But ending summer vacation isn’t as simple as passing a law extending the school year by roughly two months—it has to be paid for somehow. ” In his blog entry, he goes on to explore how this could happen.

– Education Next

H/T: This Week in Education


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