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Education today/Steve Patchin

Summer offers students opportunity to catch up or get ahead

July 21, 2009
The Daily Mining Gazette

Credit Recovery is a term used when students need to retake a required course because they failed it when they took it the first time. Summer school typically was for those students who needed to retake courses to recover credit for them in order to graduate. Educational opportunities offered by K12 schools during the summer months now not only include credit recovery, but also include courses to aid students in need of help to master course content, courses that explore academic subjects through discovery-based learning and courses that they want to take that may not fit into their academic year schedule.

In Midland, Mich., schools are offering courses online using the High School Online Learning Opportunity. These 612 grade courses are taught online by teachers possessing master's degrees. They are offered 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. weekdays from July 6 to 31 or 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. weekdays from Aug 3 to 26. They must achieve test scores above 75 percent to pass the courses, which include: algebra, geometry, biology, chemistry, government, language arts, humanities and history. The cost is $175 per semester.

Detroit Public Schools have opened 130 of its 193 schools this summer, allowing up to 41,000 students to attend summer classes if they so choose. In Detroit, summer school is mandatory for the 13,000 third grade, fifth grade, and eighth grade students who failed core classes during the 2008-09 academic school year. All of these credit recovery courses will be free to the students.

The Newark Public Schools in New Jersey is taking a different approach to summer education. Of its 43,000 students, 27,000 live in poverty. To help continue the learning process over the summer, the school district has spent $180,000 purchasing books for its summer reading program. These will be distributed to students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Titles available include "The Ten Black Dots" and Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham" for younger students to "Fahrenheit 451," "The Stranger" and "The Catcher in the Rye" for the older students. Books will be reviewed at the start of the fall semester for credit.

Many of these school programs available in the summer provide students options to aid in their academic development. Our economy is causing these programs to dwindle. A survey of American Association of School Administrators found that at least 25 percent of districts were cutting summer school programs, tripling cuts made in 2008. Though the stimulus package has provided over $100 billion to schools, it will not be allocated quickly enough to fund many summer programs. Most schools are using these funds to retain teachers and basic programming during the academic year.

Sending students to private camps is an option for parents. A recent survey of camp directors by the American Camp Association found that 49 percent of summer camps are experiencing lower enrollment this year, which they attribute to the poor economy's effect on family income.

The summer break is a great opportunity for young students to either catch up or forge ahead academically. Learning comes in many forms, whether it be reading, taking an online course or attending the many types of discovery-based learning camps or programs. The summer season is a learning opportunity that should not be wasted.

Editor's note: Steve Patchin is Director of Youth Programs Outreach and Engagement at Michigan Technological University.



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