Thursday, August 11, 2011

Another Summer Ends

At the end of another summer, I find myself revisiting an old question once again, Year-Round School. (Read previous related blogs Summer Controversy and Longer School Day/Year) As pointed out in this article there are many different forms of year-round school and the data is inconsistent on the effectiveness of it.

However, I am a proponent of year-round school and we have modeled our own school this way for the following reasons:

1. According to Duke University, the average student loses approximately 1 month of learning during the summer months, but for some students it is even more!

2. Memory must be used to be maintained. Insuring information is stored in long-term memory rather than short-term is key to learning. Read a great article about memory here.

3. It seems to be what most parents want, in my experience. This summer we had a math class with 4-5 students in both sessions. We had several students attending morning summer school classes that we offered. Also, we worked with 10 or more students individually, on a consistent basis, over the summer. People want their kids to learn in the summer, not just play!

4. Chunking is an important strategy in the learning process. By having smaller session periods of 3-5 weeks, with a short break in between, we allow for greater chunking of topics with a clear break in between units.

I have to add one other thing, while we are increasing the number of school days to 185 and chunking our learning into 3-5 week blocks with 1 week off in between, we are not extending the school day. In fact, we are shortening it to just 4 hours, leaving the afternoons open for students to experience a variety of opportunities in the afternoons. We want our students to explore their community by participating and contributing while gaining hands-on experiences. So if a student is interested in golf, why not intern or get a part-time job at a local golf course. Also, since jobs are not a one day a week experience, let's chunk the learning here as well by providing the opportunity for these interactions multiple days of the week.

What are your thoughts on year-round school? Shortened learning days? Daily opportunities for hands-on experience? Is it a good idea or a bad idea?

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