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Time and 'The Case Against Summer Vacation'

Time magazine lays out "The Case Against Summer Vacation" in its pages this week, taking on the summer learning loss that confronts many low-income children every year. The article also makes the broader pitch that even better-off kids may be falling behind their peers in other countries where school years are longer, and that something needs to change.

"By the time the bell rings on a new school year, the poorer kids have fallen weeks, if not months, behind. And even well-off American students may be falling behind their peers around the world," David Von Drehle writes.

It's an interesting article that revisits themes with which Beyond School readers are well-acquainted. It's also accompanied by some lovely photos of kids at Dragonfly Forest, a sleep-away camp for children with autism.

As he has done in this blog, Ron Fairchild, the CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, tells the magazine it's time to rethink summer school: "We need to push school districts to frame summer school as a good thing, something extra—not a punishment. There is a cultural barrier that we have to overcome. We're not The Grinch That Stole Summer Vacation."

An initiative that's already putting Fairchild's philosophy into action is featured in an article in The Detroit News. The six-week summer Math Corps program in Detroit has had impressive success in helping kids learn while having fun and laying the groundwork for high school graduation and college.

"Throughout the day, instructors stress the potential greatness within every student and demand to see it by requiring homework every night and prompt attendance. They also mentor students and encourage them to embrace such qualities as kindness, compassion, integrity, and, especially, courage. ... 'You come here and amazing things happen,' said Bria Green, 16. 'People listen to you. They appreciate you. You get to be yourself. This program changes people.' "

Meanwhile, in Illinois, many students see summer as a time to get ahead academically. The Chicago Tribune reports that "many students choose to hit the books in June and July so they can rack up extra credits—for a fee—or learn the ropes before starting freshman year. High schools cater to the new type of teenager with an array of college-prep courses."

Both the Detroit News and Tribune articles also talk about the cost of such programs and the financial challenges facing them, offering a reminder of the need for advocates to push the case for summer learning even harder in challenging financial times.

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