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Summer School Still the Best Way to Catch Up

It's encouraging to see that summer school in some districts is still alive ("Catching up the old-fashioned way: summer school," Los Angeles Times, Aug. 8).  I say that because of the scandal involving credit recovery and other dubious strategies that allow students to receive credit for classes they have failed.

Consider the announcement that the graduation rate for the Class of 2016 in the Los Angeles Unified School District  had risen to 75 percent from 72.2 percent the year before ("L.A. Unified projects 75% graduation rate for Class of 2016," Los Angeles Times, Aug. 10).  That sounds good at first glance.  But the district said it had limited data about the percentage of students who took advantage of credit recovery to graduate. As a result, the news immediately calls into question whether the increase is cause for celebration.

I have no objection to using the latest technology to help students.  But it is no substitute for putting in the time and effort that traditional policies required.  I taught summer school twice during my 28-year career in the Los Angeles Unified School District.  Each six-week session ran from 8:00 to 12:30.  It was interesting to note how efficient those schedules were in terms of student learning.  I never had a discipline problem, probably because students knew this was their last chance to receive credit for graduation, and behaved accordingly. Their concentration surpassed anything I experienced during the regular school year.

I seriously doubt that online credit recovery courses can provide the same benefits.  Yes, the necessary material is "covered," but the approach allows for no discussion.  Summer school does, with the additional benefit of highly motivated students. 

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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