Does Summer School Help?

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Content hosted for and provided by Tim Martin, Science Teacher, St. Vincent Pallotti High School

S-U-M-M-E-R S-C-H-O-O-L. Two words that no student wants to hear at the end of a long school year. The longing for a well-deserved break mixed with the negative stigma that these two words carry makes their feelings toward summer school understandable. This is especially true for students making the transition from middle school to high school. This transition marks a major step in social and academic development; so students may feel that they need to enjoy the time off to mentally prepare themselves for the change. On the other hand, there are many benefits of summer school that are not usually discussed. As a teacher, I would like to change the perception of summer school to one that is positive and beneficial by sharing my own experiences in teaching the Summer Enrichment Program at St. Vincent Pallotti High School in Laurel, MD.
The Summer Enrichment Program is designed to help potential incoming freshmen bridge the gap between middle school and high school, both socially and academically. It allows the students to get familiar with the high school experience and expectations at St. Vincent Pallotti, which includes the concept of the “Pallotti Family”. By becoming familiar with the “Pallotti Way” ahead of time, the students have an easier time transitioning to a new school instead of experiencing a “culture-shock”.

The Summer Enrichment Program consists of sessions in both Math and English. In the Math portion, the students are brought up to speed on the mathematical concepts necessary for high school. The incoming freshmen come from different schools, both public and private, that teach math in different ways. Most of the students in Summer Enrichment that struggle in math find that the three-week program is beneficial, both in the improvement of grades and confidence. In the three years that I have taught Summer Enrichment, the average grade improves by an average of 20-30% by the end of the program (based on an initial evaluation/exam compared to an evaluation/exam at the end of the program). Because I do not allow calculators during the program, students who have completely relied on calculators in the past were able to do math by hand with confidence.

In the English portion, the students are brought up to speed on sentence structure, critical thinking, and proper ways to answer questions and write essays. In many high school classes, these are skills that are necessary to succeed, but may be missing in some students. At Pallotti, all incoming freshmen are required to read two novels that are chosen by the English department. In the Summer Enrichment Program, we use one of these novels to practice the necessary skills mentioned above. Each day, the students are required to read a certain number of chapters and answer questions that force them to think and search for deeper meaning in the text. In the three-weeks, the students not only improve in their ability to write and think critically, but they also complete half of their required summer reading.

Instead of thinking of summer school as a punishment for students who struggle, I believe it should be seen as a benefit to better prepare students for the future. The four years of high school are some of the most important years for a student to develop socially and academically and help determine the path for their futures. Why not get a chance to catch up, or even a head start, in a Summer Enrichment Program?

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