Summer school—no longer about remedial instruction—deserves to move to the center of the reform agenda.
Summer school makes an unlikely candidate for a bright spot in education reform during these difficult economic times. It occupies a long-held negative place in U.S. culture, prompting dread in the hearts of many former and current students. Summer school conjures up images of sitting in hot classrooms and receiving remedial instruction while others swim, play, and enjoy the bounties of summer vacation. It's often framed as punishment for poor academic performance, carrying a stigma for students and teachers that can result in low attendance and lackluster outcomes.
It's no big surprise, then, that summer school is considered an afterthought by most school leaders and that it's often the first program they cut when school budgets are slashed. Districts and states have reduced funding for summer school across the United States, particularly in such hard-hit areas as California, where Los Angeles has all but eliminated its summer school programs for the last three years; support for those programs went from $54 million in 2006 down to a mere $3 million in 2011.