School kids love summer, and why wouldn’t they? Unfortunately, the long warm-weather break from the classroom contributes to a brain drain.
As research by the RAND Corporation found, “By the end of summer, students perform, on average, one month behind where they left off in the spring.”
The research also found that summer learning loss disproportionately affects low-income students.
Cabell County School Superintendent William Smith has seen the RAND study, and plenty of other research, that shows the traditional school calendar of nine months on and three months off is not efficient for learning, especially for kids from poor families.
“It’s impossible for them to catch up,” Smith told me on Metronews Talkline last week.
That’s why Smith wants to switch to a modified version of year-round school. The “balanced calendar,” as it’s called, breaks the year into nine-week periods with a shorter summer break of five to six weeks.
Cabell County will hold a series of public meetings over the next two months before making a final decision. Expect the usual grousing that comes with change, but credit Cabell County educators with challenging the existing condition in the best interest of students.
Hopefully, that mentality spreads throughout West Virginia, especially with the start of the 60-day Legislative session just a few weeks away. Governor Tomblin has promised to tackle education reform. He emphasized that during his inaugural speech last week.
“We have hard-working teachers. Per capita our education funding ranks among the best in the nation, but on our most important metric, student achievement, we are falling behind,” the Governor said.
Indeed we are.
Education Week’s Quality Counts report for 2013 gave West Virginia an overall B-minus, but that’s somewhat misleading. The score was propped up by higher grades in non-academic areas.
On K-12 achievement, West Virginia received an F for the third year in a row.
West Virginia gets the same grade from Students First, an education advocacy group founded by former Washington, D.C. School Superintendent Michelle Rhee. Students First “advocates that state leaders do away with antiquated policies that obstruct progress and fail to help children learn.”
There is more research showing that West Virginia public school students are not being prepared to reach their potential, but you get the point.
The good news is that the education reform movement, which has been gaining momentum across the country, is now catching on in West Virginia. The old way of doing things is being swept aside by educators, public policy makers, parents and community leaders who realize how high stakes are.