Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Summer Vacation in the Era of NCLB

As no doubt most of us are enjoying summer vacation an interesting question was posed at our school the last few weeks of school. The question centered around what to post on our website in the way of resources/activities for students to do over the summer. It sparked some interesting debate between all of my colleagues. All were in agreement that students lose some of what they have learned over the long break. Where we differed is in what if anything we give them to do over the summer.

There was a lot of debate on what children needed over the summer to help them retain their learning. One camp said we needed to encourage basic reading skills in the area of novels. Another camp said students needed to be able to relax and do more free form learning in the form of enrichment type activities. Yet another camp wanted internet resources parents could go to if they wanted something for their kids to do to stay academically sharp. As you can imagine each had their research to back up their claim, but the one thing that was said that I think rang true the most was the individual(s) who stated that not all children are the same and need the same things in the way of instruction. There are those kids who need a little bit more academic support to stay at grade level over the summer, and there are those that need more enrichment type activities to stay at grade level and keep them interested in school. I believe that sometimes we get so caught up in NCLB, worrying about performance pay, being compared to other schools in an apples to bolts kind of way that we forget who we are dealing with, individual kids. In the Era of NLCB and education reform we often times get so caught up with looking at groups of students and what they need or don't need that we forget about the individual students unless they are below grade level. Summer time would be a great time to encourage some individualized instruction whether it be in the form of summer school or resources for parents, summer work packets, reading lists, etc.

One idea would be to take advantage of the family vacation as an enriching opportunity. In the fall often times we ask kids to report out on what they did over summer vacation as an entry task, why not reverse this and ask them what they are going to be doing over the summer. By knowing what they might be doing over the summer we could tailor some enrichment activities for parents to work on with their kids. These don't have to be anything snazzy or sophisticated just something to engage students while on a trip. This would help us make education come alive for a lot of kids which is often times hard to do in a classroom. How cool would it be to have a student going to Boston for the summer grab some digital pictures of historical sites, or have a custom tour designed for them based on their social studies text or lessons? What about the student going camping to Devil's tower? They could examine first hand some of the geology that created the tower. The possibilities are endless

Now I know that some of you would say this would take tons of time that we don't already have or have allocated to other more important things. Well I would say what about the parents who don't have the time or ability/access to the resources we have as teachers? In a lot of the texts we use or the websites we use for research there is enrichment type activities that are often time tailored for this kind of activity. Just some simple tweaks here and there and it is ready to go out with the report card or final grade. It may take us some time but I believe it would be time well invested.

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