Should Learning Extend Beyond the Traditional School Year?
By Megan O’Reilly Palevich, M.Ed., Head of School at Laurel Springs School
Summer school: It’s a term that evokes a sense of dread among students and is most often associated with punishment or remediation—fall behind in school, and you lose your summer break. However, as educators, it’s time to flip the script and put outdated notions of ‘summer school’ behind us. With major shifts in K-12 education happening as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have an opportunity to dive deeper into the benefits of year-round learning and develop enriching summer programs that help students advance their academic goals, explore their interests, and build critical skills.
Historically, there have been relatively predictable drivers of enrollment in an accelerated summer program. At Laurel Springs School, we offer a robust summer catalog, including Electives, World Languages, and even Advanced Placement (AP) courses for both full-time students and students who come to us on a part-time basis. On a high level, this program can give students access to subject areas that may not be available to them at their brick-and-mortar school, or it may allow them to chip away at prerequisites as they pursue individual academic pathways.
Focusing specifically on the 2020-2021 school year, the ramifications of the pandemic cannot be ignored. As schools try to develop solutions for each child’s unique situation, the impact of a mastery-based, year-round approach may be considerable. Families could be seeking an opportunity for their students to catch up, reengage, or solidify foundational skills that may have been put at risk due to challenging learning conditions.
This phenomenon is especially apparent for families with children in elementary school who may be experiencing difficulty with math and reading. Enrolling a child in one of these grade-level foundational courses during the summer can help to build upon the existing skills that the student has already developed at their brick-and-mortar school, and the flexibility and accelerated pace of asynchronous summer courses ensure that the student has time to enjoy their summer break.
Accelerated, asynchronous summer courses provide a number of benefits and opportunities for students at all grade levels, but year-round learning should also be a focused, goal-oriented exercise. While the actual time commitment varies based on course content and student grade level, this is an important consideration for students and families as they seek to achieve their goals for summer learning.
We are already seeing a myriad of trends and innovations emerging out of the COVID-19 crisis, and year-round learning may play a leading role as we think about what education looks like after the pandemic. As the need for on-demand education increases, so will the need for a reimagined school year that defies tired notions of ‘summer school’ and helps to prepare students for success in college and in their adult lives.
Megan O’Reilly Palevich has been a teacher and administrator in the public and private sectors for more than 25 years. Her rich and varied experience in PreK-12 education includes curriculum design, signature innovative program development, technology integration, and personalized professional development for educators. Mrs. O’Reilly Palevich has won awards for innovation in science education from CESI and in social studies education from Facing History and Ourselves. She regularly speaks nationally about topics such as gifted education, blended learning, online learning, and more. Mrs. O’Reilly Palevich earned her B.A. from Rosemont College in Elementary Education and Psychology, and her M.Ed. from Cabrini University in Educational Leadership with completion of the K-12 Principal Certification Program.