Monday, August 23, 2010

The Summer School Story

Summer school, no matter how you look at it, is a waste. It is impossible to learn and retain anything in such a short period of time. I know. When I was in college, and sick of going to school, I decided to do summer school. I thought it would be a good way to get a bunch of credits out of the way fast. I did just that. Unfortunately, the credits I got out of the way were for courses I needed to learn and learn well. Calculus 3 was one of them, philosophy another. I got the credits alright and I even got A's but I retained nothing I learned. It was only when I retook the courses years later that I gained an understanding of what I had taken then.

I bitched a few weeks ago about a summer school program that ran only three weeks. I have since learned more about the program and, in the interest of fairness, I feel I must present both sides.

The three week summer program was not being run as a typical summer program where kids did little or nothing, got a grade, and then earned two credits which makes up the entire year. In the past everyone could go to summer school, whether they did some work over the year and learned something or did no work and learned nothing. This three week program was run as a credit recovery program, still sucky except it was only open to kids who got 50's or 55's, kids who almost passed during the year. And, instead of two credits and a grade, the kids got 1 credit and no grade, a slight improvement. After the three weeks were up, everyone had a week off and then many of the students were invited back for regents prep in small groups. The philosophy behind this was simple. First, this was the way summer school was being done in those small schools everyone seems to love and in order to keep up and stop the government from coming in and taking over, this school had to run things the same way. Second, all kids, not only the rich are entitled to individual help and this was a good way to give it to them. Of course, kids still got away with doing little or nothing. Kids who were absent too much the first three weeks got called in and were allowed to make up those days, still giving them the ability to gain credits on their own terms.

And now, my opinion: Credit for nothing is not a good thing, no matter what it is called. Yet, looking at the reasoning behind this program, I understand it. What really sucks is the push to get everyone through, no matter how little they know. What sucks is the fear of failure everyone is under and this fear that pushes schools to do things that are not educationally sound. What sucks is having a whole bunch of people who know nothing about education calling the shots. Under this theory, big business should be calling the plays for the NY Yankees.


hairyape68 said...

I took all the elementary calculus in the summer, 6 weeks to do the stuff up to multivariate problems. (I taught myself to do the multivariate when I needed it later.) We had two 75 minute classes with a 20 minute break five days a week for 6 weeks. I got 6 units credit. Later I took Differential equations and anvanced calculus.

I think it all depends on the student, the teacher, and the subject.

My teacher was Chester Jaeger. He taught at Pomona for many years and served as the mayor of Claremont.

During our breaks we smoked and Prof. Yeager told stories. He had an unending supply.

Years later one of my colleagues at the U. of Mo. said he remembered Jaeger when he was singing for nickles on the streets of St. Louis.

Anonymous said...

It probably makes sense to give kids who needed just a bit of a push to get a passing grade the extra help in the 3 week period.

I remember going to summer school when I was in elementary school. I had a great teacher and in 6 weeks my score went up 2 grades. But I have to say it was the teacher who motivated me. She was unlike any teacher I had in elementary school, and when I became a teacher, I tried to be just like her. She was caring and made all of us feel important. But most of all she was fun and knew how to motivate us.