By Brigid Godvin and Mary Ann Hamlin, PhD.
Summer vacation is here and classrooms across Michigan will soon empty. Unfortunately, when learning stops in the summer months, students typically forget much of what they have learned. This puts them at a disadvantage in the fall and later in life.
The research is clear: Students in summer programs retain more of what they learned in the previous year. Maintaining their academic momentum from the end of one school year to the beginning of the next, students learn their new subjects more quickly and build on what they already have studied.
Educators, parents and legislators are all looking at ways to deliver more education. Last year, the conversation got a higher profile when President Barack Obama suggested the school year be extended from a national average of 180 days to 210 days.
The Lake Orion School District is currently offering year-round instruction at one school and studying the concept for the entire district. So far, the academic results have been positive for students at Carpenter Elementary School in Orion Township. Administrators report the school’s 3rd, 4th and 5th graders achieved the highest standardized test scores in the district.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder also has informally proposed allowing the state’s individual school districts be allowed to extend the length of their calendar year.
Our elected leaders understand the importance of a well-educated population for the future of the nation. An educated public is critical for economic productivity, quality of cultural life, and our national security.
In a survey of academic achievement by 15 year-olds conducted by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, U.S. students were ranked 25th in math, 17th in science, and 14th in reading compared to students around the world.
Who was Number 1? China. Their students ranked 1st in math, 1st in science and 1st in reading. Chinese students receive 41 more days of instruction than students in American schools.
So what can be accomplished in the summer? Summer studies allow students to make up classes and credits in a less stressful environment. They also can master a subject early in order to test out and advance their curriculum.
In addition to getting a jump on their fall studies, students in summer programs also get a leg up on their competition in the race to top colleges. Superior grade point averages and advance placement credits translate into admission to top colleges and scholarship offers.
To increasing numbers of Michigan’s brightest and most successful students, summer studies really represent freedom. They know they are learning what they need to become the kind of person who can go anywhere and accomplish most anything – an educated person.
Versions of this article appeared in The Oakland Press and The Birmingham Eccentric.