Reflection on Summer School

Since July 3rd I have been Vice Principal at a tri-district Summer School that provides completion and credit core courses for around 1000 students in grades 9 through 12. The school is located on two different campuses and I have been the lone administrator at the smaller campus of about 200 students.

For some students, this school offers an opportunity to gain credit for a course in 4 weeks that would normally take 5 months in a regular school year to complete. For other students we offer 2 week completion courses for those that, for one reason or another, did not successfully complete the course at school, or who want to upgrade their mark. Classes are 4.5 hours a day. The school is fully funded by the BC Ministry of Education and is provided free of charge to any student enrolled.

As you can image, this process is challenging from a teacher or administrators stand point. Students come to the school with widely varying aptitudes, some with learning disabilities and some are international students with English as a Second Language designation; some are adult students living on their own and unfortunately, some are young people who come here from very difficult home situations.

Clearly this is not the optimum educational setting for a student who struggles given that they are expect to complete the course in such a compact, and rigorous time frame. I have taught summer school in the past as well, and each time struggle with the issue of providing 4 credits in a two or four week time frame. Teachers strive to provide instruction and assess achievement based on the learning outcomes of the regular 5 month course, but is it possible? In the end we must be able to be satisfied that the student is ready for the next level and that they have satisfied the prescribed learning outcomes of the course.

At the end of this exhausting, sometimes frustrating, but highly rewarding process, we can say that we have given many kids an opportunity to be successful and have allowed them to move on towards graduation. I have had many students tell me they have learned more in this short time in a course than they did over an entire semester at school. That makes it all worthwhile for us, but what does it say about the regular system?


8 thoughts on “Reflection on Summer School

  1. Taking courses in a short span of time maybe better because other school subjects or activities are not in the summer program. Also, there is less time for procrastinating in a 2-4 week course than in a 5 month course. If there are taking it for a second time the material is somewhat familiar to them and just taking it for the first time. Summer school has a different atmosphere as well–at least it did when I went. I could concentrate on one course instead of 5 or 6 different courses.

  2. I agree with Debbie that other school activities during the regular school year can really be distracting to students. Football games, clubs, other classes, and homework. I’m sure summer school’s a quieter option and allows students to focus on one-two things at a time.

    • Alternative Ed has always had this reputation of being where the bad kids go…It is clear that our current model for education does not work for all students and alternatives must be found for them.

  3. We did a district mandated credit recovery program at each school for three weeks this summer. I found myself asking some of the same questions you addressed. Did our current system fail these students? After the three weeks are they really ready to advance to the next course? How do we meet the drastically different needs of those who attend credit recovery? Are we teaching them that they don’t have to do it the first time? Will they get these second chances in the real world or are we instilling a work ethic/attitude that will hinder them in the future.

    I’m not sure that there are any concrete answers.

    • Barb- You are raising some great questions.
      I remember taking chemistry one summer in high school and my reasoning for choosing summer over regular school year was that it was a shorter session, I was anticipating that it would be a difficult course for me, and smaller classes might help me be successful. I got a B in the course, I loved my teacher and felt like I got a lot of individual attention.

      Of course there were students there who had failed the course during the year, but given this alternative to succeed, those students ended up passing.

      I agree with Barry that some students need alternatives to see success. We MAY be teaching them that they don’t have to do it right the first time… however, I think a lot of students need this alternative to reg. school year to help them succeed, and success can breed success.

  4. I think that given the fact that they have no extracurriculars and a lightened course load, they are able to concentrate on the subjects that give them trouble. Also, teachers aren’t teaching as many courses so they are also more “fresh” and willing to get down to the nitty gritty. I love that your district offers this. It seems like a great way to get the students motivated for the next year. Success is always a great motivator!

  5. I like short-intensive summer courses, but they are exhausting! For some courses, though, where repetition and constant exposure is key to understanding, I prefer a longer time frame. It is nice to have a choice tough.

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