Little snow last winter plus an Executive Order that dictates that local school calendars must begin after Labor Day means that FCPS students will have 87 days of summer vacation this year. At first, many people were excited about the longer summer. But the implications and consequences of a long summer are beginning to dawn on everyone.
For some parents, the need to plan and pay for additional child care or summer camps has proved a huge challenge. Two parents were recently overheard discussing the cost of a week at camp and debating if $800 was a good deal. ($800 for a week?)
Another parent commented to me, “With an 87 day summer vacation, no wonder these other countries are kicking our butts!” A high school administrator shared concerns that the first football game of the season will be held on the Friday before school starts—before administrators have even had a chance to meet their freshmen and share expectations for audiences at sporting events.
More troublingly, many administrators worried about their students who would not have food throughout the summer.
These are all real and valid concerns. But the overriding question for me is whether or not this policy is in the best interest of students. The answer is unequivocally, No!
In Frederick County alone, we have almost 11,000 students living in poverty. The impact that a prolonged summer vacation has on the achievement gap for these students in particular is harsh. Research (like this) has repeatedly documented the summer slide:
Experts have concluded that students lose one month of learning during each summer vacation, which can take a hefty toll on test scores and academic performance. This reality hits youth living in low-income communities the hardest, contributing to the growing achievement gap; their families are often unable to provide constant adult supervision during work and evening hours or afford enriching summer camps. In fact, by fifth grade, summer learning loss can leave low-income students up to three years behind their peers. And a child’s summer learning experiences during elementary school years can even impact whether that child earns a high school diploma and continues on to college.
What’s the best solution for our students? In the short term, allow local school boards to make school calendar decisions. A possible long term solution? Year-long school for our students. I have long advocated for considering a 12-month calendar for our schools (which include several terms punctuated by extended breaks). I’m proud that our Board of Education has asked their Citizens Advisory Committee to research and report on 12-month schools.
Designing school calendars to maximize instructional effectiveness should be the priority in any policy decision. If you want to impact economic development, then look first to the education of our future work force – today’s students!
Have you been struggling with our 87 day summer vacation? How would you feel about 12-month school? Tell me what you think on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper. And whether or not you agree with this post, if you enjoyed it, please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.