Not to mention exhausting. My husband, a teacher on summer "vacation," had a day where, between ferrying one kid here and another there, he spent almost six hours in the car.
These aren't complaints but, rather, an illustration of the crucial, little-talked-about, months-long experience that helps drive the academic achievement gap between the haves and the have-nots: summer vacation.
It's the time when parents who aren't lucky enough to be home during summer — or can't afford to provide learning experiences for their kids — spend what little energy they have just making sure their kids get fed during the day and hoping they stay safe.
This must change. And one actionable way to do it is to keep those kids who would otherwise spend summer watching TV or hanging around all day in school instead.
In a thought-provoking research piece titled "Ending Summer Vacation Is Long Overdue — Here's How to Pay for It" on the Brookings Institution blog, "The Brown Center Chalkboard," education researcher Matthew M. Chingos lays it out for us.
Chingos suggests that, at least for schools with high-risk populations, increasing class sizes and then having those classes run for a longer amount of time throughout the year could result in meaningful increases in academic achievement. His linchpin is that larger classrooms can serve as the variable that keeps total teacher salaries constant.
"I've done a bunch of research on class size and it's really pretty mixed. Folks think larger classes are bad, but some studies show outcomes from smaller classes are not much different than from larger ones," Chingos told me. "So if smaller classes don't seem to produce a big benefit, maybe we can redeploy those resources in more productive ways."
His back-of-the-envelope estimates didn't take into account the ultra-thorny issues of the "non-salary costs of lengthening the school year, such as [certain] teacher benefits, administrator compensation, and facilities costs (including air conditioning)," which might make his premise seem like a non-starter to some.