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Should summer school be required for students who fail state tests?


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kelsey January 27, 2010


Our latest poll asks, Should summer school be required for students who fail state tests? Follow up your vote with a discussion here.

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MagnetMom January 28, 2010


I'd hate to see anything required because a child has not been reached. Too often summers are time for visits with noncustodial parents and other relatives.

If a child has not passed state testing, I'd hate to see him force to take summer school to cover for not learning the material during the school year.

If parents *choose* to enroll, that's great. But the state should not require it.

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skeptic2 February 10, 2010


We should be asking why does the school pass a student who can't pass the state exam. Perhaps it is because of the attitude expressed by MagnetMom who says, "I'd hate to see anything required because a child has not been reached. Too often summers are time for visits with noncustodial parents and other relatives." Have we parents lost track of our priorities?

She continues, "If a child has not passed state testing, I'd hate to see him force to take summer school to cover for not learning the material during the school year." I suspect she thinks children should not be forced to go to school at all.

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MagnetMom February 10, 2010


Hi skeptic2, and welcome to the Academics and Activities Community at Great Schools.

I'm not new around here, and I have a pretty thick skin, but please remember that parents of all types come here looking for advice. You don't know a thing about me or my parenting skills or the abilities of my kids. For the record, they're highly gifted, and have no trouble passing state tests, attend(ed) phenomenal schools with awesome teachers, and sailed (and are still sailing) through school. I expected high grades, and my children have always gotten them.

However, I came from a divorced household, and had I been required to take summer school (it wasn't an issue for me either--although my district didn't even offer summer school), I would not have had much of a relationship with my East Coast father given that I grew up in California. I'm not sure that a summer school requirement for me would have the same benefit as spending the summer near Washington, D.C., learning about our country's history, and learning how to go crabbing, and growing into a blended family there.

As for the child not learning the material, I was actually referring to students with undiagnosed learning disabilities. I've seen far too many families on these very boards discuss being asked to hold back their children to repeat a grade. While there might be some cases where it works, it's clear from the experienced parents in this community that a child who is struggling to learn the material is a red flag for testing for LD--not repeating the material.

I do believe in education--public, private, charter, or homeschool. Whatever makes a child a successful, productive member of society.

Please try to frame your opinions so that you take into consideration not only your views, but that others might not have had the same experiences as you have had.

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michellea February 11, 2010


When a student fails a state test, the district should gather data to try and understand why the child failed. Presumably, students should be able to require the minimum skills within the school year. If they haven't made appropriate progress, more information is needed to determine the source of the problem.

I have a child that has scored advanced on almost every state test she has taken - she's in 10th grade. She is a fairly typical student and is able to learn in the general classroom from teachers in our high performing school district.

I have a second child that has only passed the reading portion of the state test once, and has never passed the math sections (he scores advanced on the science). Should he be forced to go to summer school? Should he be held back?

I say no. Child #2 has severe learning disabilities, even though he has a high intellect. Throwing him in a general ed summer school situation would be useless at best. He cannot learn in a general ed setting. More of the same is a waste of his time and taxpayers money.

Schools need to look at each child on a case by case basis. If the child fails, the school must find out why and then apply APPROPTIATE services to help rectify the problem. These services should begin during the regular school day and be extended if more time is needed. But, using the same one size fits all approach in the summer that has already resulted in failure during the regular school year is unproductive and even harmful. Fix the instruction during the school year first AND THEN offer individualized instruction in the summer if needed.

Believe me, there are many families like me that spend thousands of dollars after school and over the summer for appropriate remediation and tutoring. It's not a question of being unable or unwilling to hold our children to high standards. But, I would hate to forgo high quality private special education intervention because my child is forced into a sub-standard summer program.

And, I agree with MagnetMom - Mandated summer school is not as easy to take advantage of as one would think. Summer programs are often scheduled around the availablity of the school and the teachers. Working parents are forced to find transportation and child care to work around a very sporadic schedule. Summer school often suplants camps, and other childcare options, making it very difficult working parents to find care for their children.

And then you have the issue of custody, parent visits etc.

On the surface it seems like mandatory summer school is an easy answer. But, it can fall apart in its implementation. I say we start with improving the instruction during the school year.

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tropicgal February 11, 2010


I think summer school is pretty much a waste of time for children who have failed a state test and/or class. 4-6 weeks to cover what they didn't get all year long? Usually the class is graded much more leniently so that the kids can pass. On the other hand, I think it's a great idea for high school kids who can handle the faster pace and are looking to take additional classes, just as in college.

I don't believe the state tests should be used as a stand alone measure of how a child is performing. A lot of guesswork is done by many children--if they happen to guess up on the right answer, it doesn't mean they know it. Also, for whatever reasons, some children do not test well, but do know the material.

The tests should be coupled with a child's school record to determine whether remediation is needed.


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parentzero February 12, 2010


My son was supposed to pass the 7th grade a couple of years ago, but the school he goes to thought well of the "no child left behind" deal. I forced them to fail him because there was no way he was going to learn the material needed to pass to the 8th grade in a 2 week summer school session. Why do they think this is a good idea????

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skeptic2 February 12, 2010


Neither MagnetMom, michellea nor tropicgal offer an alternative to summer school. Are we to assume they favor passing a learning disabled child on to the next grade where they will start out with a disadvantage? I think Parentzero recognized that problem when he or she decided to hold her child back.

I believe much of what passes for learning disability is nothing more than an inability to concentrate. This may be a result of children's television programs that attempt to maintain the child's attention by using lots of bright colors, movement, loud sounds, and jumping from scene to scene. When a child has become accustomed to this type of program, how is he or she going to sit still in class and concentrate on math? When television and most video games require no mental effort, how is a child going to be able to think through a problem in school? Mental ability, like every other ability, improves with practice.

I don't see summer school so much as a place to pick up knowledge missed during the school year as an opportunity to spend more time concentrating on solving problems as opposed to watching television. When my 6th grade daughter brought home all A's except for a D in math, I changed the way in which she did her homework. No longer did we quit when she finished her assignment but continued working problems until she could get the right answer without my help. The next semester she got a B in math.

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MagnetMom February 12, 2010


skeptic, you should assume nothing. I don't claim to speak for parents with children with special needs. I can only advocate for my two, and so far, they've done very well. They don't watch TV in the summer, we go on excursions to museums, aquariums, libraries, and they've represented their country in the sport they play.

Glad you were able to help advocate for your daughter as well. Good luck and enjoy your time with her.


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michellea February 13, 2010


skeptic2 - I am sorry that you are skeptical about the presence of learing disablities. The neuro-science does not support your view.

My alternative? Provide the appropriate instruction during the school year. If children cannot learn using methods designed for typical learners, adjust the instruction using methodologies that will work. If more time on task is needed - give that time during the school year.

While I cannot speak for all families, TV is a non issue in our house. My child's disabilies are not a result of tv watching, lazy parenting or lazy child. Please, Please do not make such broad based assumptions.

Bottom line - a one sized fits all approach does not fit all children. Yes, I believe that almost all kids are capable of learning the basic math and reading skills required by NCLB. But I do know that when schools differentiate their instruction to help all learners, and give them adequate time on task in smaller sized classes, the results improve.


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skeptic2 February 14, 2010


michellea, your alternative is not really an alternative because it changes the premise. The premise was "Should summer school be required for students who fail state tests?" You have changed it to "Provide the appropriate instruction during the school year." This is fine and I agree with it but it does not answer the question of what to do with students who fail the state tests.

Should we pass them on to the next grade, and the next? Should a high school diploma represent nothing more than a good attendance record? If not, it seems to me that the only alternative to summer school is holding the child back a year which is something I think should be avoided if possible. Summer school is not a one size fits all solution to education. It is specifically for those students who are not prepared for the next grade but who are not so far behind they need to be held back.



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