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Summer School System

Original post made by High School Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 10, 2008

My high school son is doing summer school to repeat a class he did very poorly in to improve his grade. When he did it in school he found it difficult, didn't really understand the subject and was unable to focus. At summer school, he is really enjoying the subject, understanding the concepts and making good progress. He is also able to do his homework as he only has that one subject for homework each day.

Now this has got me thinking. Since summer school is four weeks of intensive study in one subject, with the same class from 8.00 am to 1.15 with two 15 minute breaks and only one subject of homework to do each day, is there any precedent for studying like this throughout the year? I would have expected him to get bored with one subject each day, but instead he is really getting into the subject and not getting distracted. Would he be the sort of student who could do four weeks of intensive study in just one subject through the school year and then change subject and do another until all the subjects are done?

As homework is often a problem when it comes to knowing which assignment should be tackled first and which one is going to take the longest amount of time, this problem would disappear.

I have looked around to see if there are studies done on this, but to no avail, so I was wondering if those of you who are education experts can tell me if this is an established method of teaching or not.

Comments (10)

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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 10, 2008 at 8:37 pm

This is a creative idea, but I wouldn't hold your breath that it will get implemented.
One aspect (in my opinion a MAJOR aspect) that may have affected the two experiences is that the summer school teacher is surely different than the one your child had during the school year, and I believe this can make a huge difference.
My father attended a top university and he told me he made a point to find out the best professors, then he took those courses (ended up with a double major) - the point being that a really great teacher can make almost any subject fascinating and can also motivate students. He actually approached certain professors and requested entry into their courses.
I wish there was some way to publicly recognize and elevate such outstanding teachers - they deserve a special title like "master teacher." But the teacher's unions would never stand for this kind of differentiation.

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Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 10, 2008 at 10:05 pm

Just a note to congratulate your son on his achievement, and to thank you for an interesting and creative idea.

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Posted by Another Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 11, 2008 at 9:59 am

Personally high school was a disaster for me! Once I went to college and was on the quarter system, I became an honor student. My high school son also does summer school every summer to make up his poor math grade and has a similar experience as your son. We all learn differently and it's too bad the education system doesn't change to serve all kids.

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Posted by Sharon Dally
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 11, 2008 at 4:14 pm

You might want to look into the Middle College program, which is available to PAUSD and MVLA juniors and seniors as an alternative high school program. Students in the Middle College program take all their classes at Foothill College. English and Social Studies are year-long classes taught at high school pace. For math, science, and electives, students may take any Foothill class they have the prerequisites for. A 5-credit quarter-long class at Foothill is equivalent to a year-long high school class. A typical Middle College student takes about two Foothill classes each quarter (in addition to English and Social Studies).

Check with your son's guidance counselor to see whether he might be a candidate. You can also find more information at the Middle College website at Web Link

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Posted by PA parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2008 at 10:33 am

Having gone to a significantly less affluent public high school system, I would like to point out that the summer school offerings here are amazing, and that I would support expanding summer school offerings of all type: enrichment, language, and "make-up" instruction.

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Posted by Chip Lakota
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 12, 2008 at 12:04 pm

Here is the good news - this parent is involved with their kid. GREAT

Sure wish it was like that all the time.

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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2008 at 5:08 pm

I think it's very likely that the reason that he's doing better in summer school is that he has a teacher who explains better or that he connects better with.
The Middle College program is an excellent idea for some; I've spoken with some students who participated in this and were very happy with it. If your child is a little bored with high school and doesn't especially care about high school traditions like Homecoming and Spirit Day, he/she might be happier, especially with the quarter system at Foothill.
Finally, some districts, including the one in which I teach, have tried a block schedule different from the one adopted by Paly high schools. With this schedule, the students have 3 block classes a semester and possibly a support class. Each block class meets for an hour and a half every day, and the support class is about 1 hr.(In some districts they have 4 block classes each semester.) The problem that we encountered was the amount of time between classes, especially in sequential courses. A student might have Alg. I or Spanish I first semester of his freshman year and not have Spanish II or the next math class until spring semester of the following year. This meant that there was too much time between sequential classes and students had sometimes forgotten what they learned in the previous class. Also, in classes like English, students need to write frequently, not half the time, to improve. Not surprisingly, students generally liked this schedule because they said they could concentrate well on 3 subjects at a time. (Most probably didn't mind having homework for 2 or 3 classes instead of 5 or 6.) After much discussion, we voted to change our schedule and adopt a different block schedule. All in all, I think it was the right decision, but I miss having the support class at the end of the day. I've heard that Gunn has something similar built into their schedule at the end of the school day, and many students get help in the subjects they're having trouble with and/or make up work. Maybe other schools should consider adding this.

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Posted by Company you keep
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 13, 2008 at 9:00 am

Mabe he does not meet the same friends at Summner School.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 13, 2008 at 2:29 pm

The concept of one subject at a time for whole days of instruction must have some merit. I believe it is Colorado College, a private university, whose degree program is structured that way. A friends son went there for undergrad, got a master's in a second school, and now is completing a PhD at another reputable school.

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Posted by been in PA schools a while
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 20, 2008 at 8:37 pm

What do you mean " But the teacher's unions would never stand for this kind of differentiation". Master Teacher's implies that that teacher is worth more--the main opposition to Master teacher status is the district. They have yet been willing to grant more status or pay for a teacher that stands out. And have you thought that the course you child is taking in summer school is just easier and that is why s/he is liking it more--fewer writing assignments, tests and quizes? I know that often the courses that kids take in summer school make up for poor grades but do little to build the skills and knowledge needed to move ahead.

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