Rethinking Summer Break
Anyone game for a longer school year? An op-ed published on washingtonpost.com argues that, for many children, summer vacation doesn’t make a whole lot of sense anymore. Author Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy at the American Enterprise Institute, says the extended summer break is a relic of the 19th century—“when academic achievement mattered less, an absence of air conditioning or modern hygiene turned crowded schools into health risks, and children had moms who were home every day.” Fast forward 100-plus years: Students must now be prepared to compete for “brain-based” jobs in the global economy, and most don’t have a stay-at-home parent to look after them during the lazy days of summer. (Not to mention that schools now have running water and air conditioning—at least in theory.) Hess says that the summer break is most detrimental to low-income kids, pointing to “scores of studies” showing that “these students lose significant academic ground in the summertime.” His solution: More schools should be encouraged to operate through the summer in communities that need it. The change, he says, would have the added benefit of increasing teachers’ salaries. What it would do to their career longevity is another question.