Opinion

Success is the reason to revive summer school

A Wellesley state legislator is asking her colleagues to consider closing student achievement gaps by making summer school a more available option for kids.

Long billed as punishment for lazy or undisciplined students, summer school sprang to the forefront as a sensible way to enhance students’ skills 25 years ago until state funding cuts caused many summer programs to wither away and die on the vine.

State Rep. Alice Peisch is pushing a new model for summer school in urban districts that would take students out of the classroom and into the real world, according to the State House News Service.

Peisch, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Committee on Education, has filed legislation with 18 co-sponsors that would direct the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to set up a grant program to support summer learning in districts with high concentrations of low-income students.

The programs seeded through the grant program would have to offer at least 150 hours of programming, including academic, college and career readiness skills, and work with local district and community employers, nonprofits and private funders to enhance the experience, the News Service reported.

It makes sense to advance Peisch’s concept and ask nonprofit organizations and businesses to explore ways to supplement any state money available to pay for summer learning. Organizations such as the North Shore Workforce Investment Board urge businesses annually to think about summer job opportunities for youth and ponder the benefits of hiring young people. It is not a huge leap to also ask the private and nonprofit sector to advance summer learning.

Lynn’s past successes with Project LEARN and individual summer programs in schools across the city achieved several important objectives. They kept students’ mathematics and reading skills sharp during summer vacation and they provided more latitude for kids to learn in small groups and mix classroom time with fun-oriented, hands-on learning projects of the variety Peisch is envisioning.

As anyone who has mastered a sport or a musical instrument knows, practice and time spent on it are the only ways to develop a talent. School districts cannot throw money at education during the school year or roll out a new testing concept and expect marked student skill improvement.

But relaxed, innovative programs during the summer months help young minds loosen the routine oriented structure of the regular year classroom and stretch their intellects. Summer programs are also good for teachers: They need to keep their skills sharp so that they can roll into the fall at full speed.

LEARN in its heyday combined classroom programs with afternoon recreational programs designed to help kids balance summer learning with hot weather outdoor activities. The result was curious kids who spent part of their summer productively while their parents got a low-cost alternative to daycare.

Peisch’s idea, like a lot of legislative proposals that wind their way through the Legislature, will attract her colleagues’ attention or die an obscure death after getting sidetracked. But the intent behind her thinking represents an innovative way to accomplish the one task education is intended to accomplish: Help students succeed.

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