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'Best of Times, Worst of Times'

It's an interesting time to follow expanded learning. This was confirmed for me this week when two experts from the field dropped by the Education Week office to talk about summer learning.

"The economy is having a huge impact," Ron Fairchild, the CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, said during the informal interview session on Tuesday. But schools, districts, and other organizations are thinking creatively so it's a "best of times, worst of times scenario," he added.

Speaking to fellow edweek.org blogger Lesli Maxwell and myself, Fairchild and Jeff Smink—the association's vice president for policy—pointed to the higher profile of summer learning nationwide and the generally acknowledged view that it's a critical way to keep less-advantaged kids from falling behind their better-off peers. That said, in tight budget times, many officials look to summer learning as good, but not mandatory, and programs get cut.

Too many districts are in a "boom and bust" cycle of summer-program funding that turns on current economic conditions, Fairchild asserted. His group wants districts to see high-quality summer initiatives as a reform priority for which they plan in three- to five-year stretches. Really, districts should use summer programming to drive broader reform, Fairchild said.

How well does your district plan for summer enrichment activities? Has the budget forced your school/district/state to cut programs? Does your school work with other organizations to come up with nontraditional offerings? I'd love to hear from you, so please drop me a line.

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