Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer Vacation Is Not The Problem

Each year, as kids break free from schools for a little while to pursue the joys of childhood, the issue of "summer vacation" leading to the "summer slide" rears its ugly head again. Time and again, commentators weigh in on the problems of "stopping school" for a couple months when the pools open and the warm weather arrives. The most recent entry comes from Cristina Evans, a teacher, who went to the pages of with "A Teacher's Case Against Summer Vacation." Evans is focused specifically on the struggles of low-income and mostly urban students who tend to experience academic regression during the months off schools. This is the summer slide.

The case against summer vacation has been made many times, and the carefree break from school has even been called "evil" by some commentators looking to use extremist language to increase readership on a blog post. The reality, though, is a bit different than much of the "history" indicates. To be clear, the existence of summer vacation is not a result of our farming history and the "agrarian calendar" that let kids out in the summer to work in the fields.  I have discussed this discrepancy more fully in the past. And the history of summer vacation is not unclear to anyone willing to do a bit of research.

To her credit, Evans doesn't call for a radical end to summer vacation. Instead, she makes a lucid case for shortening it from maybe ten weeks to six or so. And no one is arguing that in schools where a summer slide is evident that we should ignore the problem. However, a blanket argument that summer vacation should be shorter across all schools is misguided. Instead, parents and communities should know the facts for how to effectively use summer vacation for the type of enrichment that prevents summer regression in many kids. The reality is that summer vacation is embedded in our culture, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

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