Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Don Peek - Summer --- What Are Your Plans?

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.

Summer --- What Are Your Plans?

I’ve never been a proponent of year-around school.  Yes, I grew up on a farm, but even in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s we didn’t stay home from school to harvest crops.  Yet, even today we run most American schools on an agrarian calendar.  It’s great for teachers and administrators to have a break.  It’s not even too bad for above-average students.  It is near catastrophic for many at-risk and disabled students.

Where above average students might grow from 1.2 to 1.4 years in math and reading in a 9-month school year and lose only .2 to .3 years of growth over the summer, weaker students during a good year grow as much as .7 or .8 of a year in math and reading, but lose up to .3 to .4 of that growth in the summer.  That’s the reason year-around school and summer school is a good thing for weaker students.

Unfortunately, not many schools provide these programs throughout the summer for those students who need it.  If these students hope to stay even or to catch up some during the summer, either parents or some really good teachers need to lay out plans for at-risk and learning disabled students for the summer break. 

Fortunately, some excellent on-line curricula are available over the Internet.  The best of these even combine fun and games with the lessons to keep students interested and moving forward.  I’ve often wondered how much better off our students would be today if every video game required players to learn one or more vocabulary words between each level of play.  What a small price to pay to slay more dragons, visit more enchanted lands, or to save the princess.

In addition, these students need to visit the school or public library at least once each week.  Parents need to help children pick books that highly interest them but are on an appropriate level for maximum growth.  To be able to do that, teachers should make student reading levels very clear to parents and even provide book lists including only books in an appropriate range for each student for summer reading.  Parents should choose additional books to read to their children.

Unfortunately, many parents of at-risk and learning disabled students cannot or will not provide these types of activities for their children.  Unless a school, community, or church program picks up the slack, we are essentially saying that we will accept these summer losses, and we are powerless to do anything about it.  If that is the case in your school and community, I’d say it’s a sad comment on the state of our society.

Be that as it may, the important thing is for you make yourself aware of what is available on the Internet, at the various libraries, and at the school and within the community and make sure that your at-risk and learning disabled students take full advantage of these opportunities.  Not only will it keep them from having a typical boring summer, it will also help to keep them from losing up to half of the gains they made throughout the regular school year.

These students struggle enough without us building a calendar that penalizes them each year.  While it looked for a while that schools might gravitate toward year-around calendars, that concept seems to have lost most of its traction.  Since most schools will not lose the summer vacation, it is vital that we provide at-risk and learning disabled students with structured programs during the summer so they don’t fall further behind other students.

Grant Info:

Grant Name:  Bikes Belong Grant Program

Funded by:  Bikes Belong Coalition

Description:  The Bikes Belong Grant Program strives to put more people on bicycles more often by funding important and influential projects that leverage federal funding and build momentum for bicycling in communities across the U.S. These projects include bike paths and rail trails, as well as mountain bike trails, bike parks, BMX facilities, and large-scale bicycle advocacy initiatives.

Program Areas:  Health/PE  (while this program is not specifically for students with disabilities, I believe it is very inclusive and can be very beneficial for disabled students)

Recipients:  Public School, Higher Education, Other

Proposal Deadline:  6/29/2012

Average Amount:  $10,000.00

Telephone:  303-449-4893

Availability:  All States