2019 May 1: Summer Vacation and Summer School

It is hard to believe the 2018-19 school year is almost over, and summer time is just around the corner. This week Mrs. Kathy Pelzel has some very interesting information regarding summer vacation, and RISD's summer school.


It is commonly believed that students had summer vacation a century ago in order to ensure their farming parents had the help they needed at home. This is actually incorrect. Throughout the 1800’s schools were open during the winter and summer because farm help was needed during spring planting and fall harvest. Our current tradition of summer vacation began in the 1930’s. The reasoning was experts at the time believed that the mental exertion of learning would cause brain injury if it was prolonged. Of course today we know this is not true but the tradition continues.

In today’s world a much greater number of families have both parents working full time. This makes summer vacation a struggle to provide childcare. Students, and low income students in particular, are more likely to be left in self care. This means a lot of screen time in front of a computer, tablet, or television. This leaves the students vulnerable to summer learning loss, boredom, and high risk behaviors. In fact today the need for summer education far outstrips the ability of school districts.

Studies show that students experience a loss of knowledge and skills over the summer break due to the lack of mental exercise. The effects are more significant for low income students which serves to widen the learning gap between low and high income students over time. Teachers lose a month of class time at the beginning of each academic year refreshing students on the things they have “forgotten” over the three month period. Some students don’t recover this knowledge as quickly as others so they struggle through the beginning of each school year.

RISD does offer summer education for our students. This time is used for credit recovery and remediation. For students who catch up to their peers during this time, it allows teachers to reinforce skills thereby minimizing the typical summer losses. High income students typically make slight gains in reading skills during the summer where low income students usually have a loss. Summer education programs allow students to close this gap and be fully prepared for the next school year.