A major part of my job as a Special Educator is to do testing. Pre-testing, post-testing, formative assessment, academic evaluations, and regression testing. Before and after every long weekend or vacation, I test the students to see if what they know after vacation matches what they knew before vacation. If there is a significant difference, then they regressed and I refer them to the dreaded summer school.
Hint – the longer the vacation, the more they regress.
As summarized above, this phenomenon has a snowball effect as the years go on. Especially notable is the fact that vacation learning loss, especially the “summer slide,” disproportionately affects low income students and students with disabilities.
My fellow educators often complain that the world is changing, the students don’t have the same work ethic they once did, and the students are not mastering skills as quickly as they used to.
The answer seems clear, although wildly unpopular – maybe the school year needs to be restructured to meet the needs of today’s students. *gasp*
I can hear the stutters and open-mouthed gaping from my colleagues. “Why would you want to give up 10+ weeks of vacation a year??” “How would I take care of my own children and pay for child care that whole time?” “The job is difficult and we need breaks!” “How would students transition between grades?” …are all questions that pop up like worried prairie dogs whenever the subject arises.
I am not suggesting we do away with breaks altogether. Teaching is a stressful and difficult job, and every one of those vacation weeks is well-earned by most professional teachers. However, the structure of the school year is clearly no longer servicing our neediest populations, and therefore needs to change.
I like to counter those panicked questions with, what if teachers were paid a higher salary that actually reflected the hours put in to the job? In other words, what if teachers’ salaries reflected 12 months of work instead of 10? What if you didn’t need a second summer job to support yourself?
We could create a better teaching environment for teachers by having higher wages and more prepared students who are able to retain skills from year to year. As a result, we could narrow the achievement gap and make learning more meaningful to all students by encouraging them to learn new skills, hone old skills, and always be learning. As a country, we place a great amount of importance on education and children, but how much do we really value them if we deny them the ability to be the best learners they can be?