In the News: Specialized Summer Camps Mean More Enrichment for Kids

Debate camp. Filmmaking camp. Computer coding camp. Girls in Politics camp. Paleontol0gy camp. In the Washington Post, Michael Alison Chandler writes about the proliferation of specialty camps offered in the area.

In the high-achieving culture of Washington, parents are always eager to give their children an edge and help them develop new interests or go deeper on something they learned at school. This drive has fueled a proliferation of specialized camps that are upending the notion that summer camp is about arts and crafts and learning to swim.

In Boston, school district administrators are trying to remake summer school so that it no longer means rote learning in a stifling classroom. Max Larkin writes:

It’s not exactly appealing, especially when compared to the creative enrichment programs available in the summer for students from wealthy families.

But city officials are trying to fix that, by re-envisioning summer school as something that high-need students won’t want to skip.

Starting this summer, the city will engage more than 2,000 K-8 students — and their teachers — in programs that combine summer learning with a wide array of enrichment opportunities, from science camp to sailing.

Should we just skip summer vacation altogether? Back in 2013, Matt Chingos noted:

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, which fits into a broader push to lengthen the school year beyond the 180 days that is typical in the U.S.

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.  Teachers will expect to be paid for working significantly more days, and there are other costs of keeping schools open (such as air conditioning in many parts of the country).  It may well be the case that these costs are justified by the achievement gains of having students spend more time in the school, but in the current fiscal environment substantial increases in educational spending are unlikely to be forthcoming.

How can schools substantially lengthen the school year without spending any more money than they currently have?

For thoughts on this, continue reading Matt’s piece “Ending Summer Vacation is Long Overdue–Here’s How to Pay For It.

— Education Next

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