Charters beat regular schools in summer learning
This Wednesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Brent Elementary School at 301 North Carolina Ave. SE, the D.C. public schools will hold a chancellor’s forum on how to add useful learning to your child’s summer. Several groups, such as the D.C. Public Library, the University of the District Columbia Science & Engineering Center, and even Madame Tussaud’s, will have booths about their summer programs.
But the District, like other urban districts, will have a summer school that includes only about a fifth of its students. Many people laugh that off: Who in their right mind wants to go to summer school? Give the poor kids a break.
That old-fashioned attitude turns out to be educationally bankrupt. Summer learning loss has been shown to be a likely cause of low achievement in cities such as Washington. Karl L. Alexander of Johns Hopkins University found that by ninth grade, accumulated learning loss for low-income children accounted for two thirds of the achievement gap between them and higher-income children who had summer learning opportunities, such as trips to the library and museums.
A significant but overlooked factor here is that one group of D.C. students — those who attend public charter schools — are far more likely to attend summer school than those in regular public schools.
Nona Mitchell Richardson, spokeswoman for the D.C. Public Charter School Board, said an estimated 9,900 of 28,000 charter students in the city are expected to be in summer school this year, or 35 percent. Among students of regular D.C. public schools, 21 percent (9,429 out of 45,000 students) are enrolling this summer.
The gap is even worse when you consider the way many charters use their summer sessions. Some of the most successful in the District require all students to attend summer school. It is not just a device to remediate slow kids or enrich fast ones: It is part of the learning plan for the entire year. Nationally, charter school students on average do no better than regular school students, but in the District they show more progress, despite being just as disadvantaged as the regular school kids. Charters can raise extra money for such programs, but these days so can regular schools.
Ron Fairchild and Jeff Smink of the Baltimore-based National Summer Learning Association extolled making summer school part of the school year in a commentary in Education Week. That approach, they said, “challenges the value of a traditional, remedial model of summer school, and embraces instead a seamless blend of core academic learning and hands-on enrichment activities.”
Washington area suburban schools also have summer learning opportunities. Loudoun County has a math instruction camp and a middle school technical camp. The Fairfax County elementary school offerings include a Little Authors Workshop and We Do Robotics. Montgomery County has a four-week program for schools with many low-income students. Manassas City has an engineering camp. Falls Church has an array of drama and arts programs. Prince George’s County is paying students at some elementary schools $5 for every book they read, up to $25.
But in most communities, these activities are just for a few. A new survey of 30,000 households by the Afterschool Alliance reveals that three out of four U.S. schoolchildren do not participate in summer learning programs, even though parents of 56 percent of those kids not participating in summer learning would like them to.
It might be time to shed our discomfort with the notion of summer school for all, and see whether it helps our kids, particularly those in districts such as D.C. The people running the Brent Elementary forum Wednesday would like to do much more with the summer than they are able. Check out what they offer. Would it be so bad if every child had a chance to learn in that way, and get a head start on the new school year?
Read Jay's blog every day at http://washingtonpost.com/class-struggle.
Follow all the Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education web page, http://washingtonpost.com/education
| June 27, 2010; 10:00 PM ET
Categories: Metro Monday | Tags: charter school kids get more summer school than regular school kids in DC, make it part of the full year plan, requiring summer school for all, summer learning loss
Save & Share: Previous: NYC success suggests better fix for urban high schools
Next: If more D.C. testing is bad, why are Va., Md. schools so popular?
Posted by: incredulous | June 27, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: musiclady | June 28, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: raylynnwhite | June 28, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: raylynnwhite | June 28, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Cal_Lanier | June 28, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: bsallamack | June 28, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: preppedandpolished | June 28, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bsallamack | June 28, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: pqr1951 | June 28, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: allenm1 | June 29, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jay Mathews | June 29, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.