The traditional image of summer school features a group of bored-looking teenagers sitting at desks inside a forlorn, half-empty classroom. Meanwhile, outside, their friends are poolside enjoying beautiful summer weather and having fun. For years, this was more or less the case. Summer school was the price one paid for bad grades. Do poorly, get an F or a D in math class, and you had to make it up during the summer while your friends had a great time without you.
Summer school was a thing to avoid, and if you didn’t it was an embarrassment to hide. It was whispered about with great seriousness: “Dave…he’s got SUMMER SCHOOL.” Everyone would pause reverently, thanking their stars it was Dave and not them.
Today’s summer school is a whole new ballgame.
How the educational landscape has changed! In fact, these days summer school is not only incredibly common but, in many cases, something to look forward to! In 2017, an estimated 41% of high school students did some form of summer school coursework. Just seven years before that, the number was only 25%. While the majority still go for credit recovery—fixing bad grades–many others take classes to get ahead, or to try something different, or just to ward off the summer doldrums. Believe it or not, there are those students who, when given a choice of doing nothing or learning something new, will choose to learn.
There’s more of them than you think!
According to the New York Times, the fastest growth area in summer school course offerings is enrichment. More and more high school students are electing to spend time in the summer to learn more—and longer—than is possible during the regular school year. And the results are astounding: attendance in summer school can improve math scores by 25% and language capabilities by 23%.
The Covid effect.
Remember, 2017 was two schools year before Covid. Since then, the vast majority of American students (and, indeed, students worldwide) have been learning either at home, partially at home, or in classrooms but masked and socially distanced. None of these scenarios are not necessarily conducive to good grades, and the low GPAs of an astonishing number of young people today offers ample proof of that. Covid has made even good students perform poorly.
Those students that did not see a dip in their classroom effectiveness during the Covid pandemic share the common feeling that the quality of their education was not up to par compared to past years. By most accounts, learning during Covid was not a fun experience, even in person. Masks, socially distanced classrooms, and the unpredictable disappearance of contract-traced classmates made the brick-and-mortar alternative different but not better than working from home. For the future, parents and students all around the country are looking for a better alternative to what they experienced during the 2020–2021 school year.
The future starts with Summer 2021!
“I’ve always liked school, but this past year I’ve absolutely hated it,“ says Carlos, a middle–of–the–road student from South Florida. “I plan to take a summer course, or maybe even two, just to prove that I can do class work better than I did during the school year.“ Carlos states that his confidence as a student is shaken, and he admits that the bad habits he picked up while working at home during the first part of the school year spilled over into his in-class performance after the new year, when he went back to full-time in-person classes. His biggest fear is that problematic study issues will linger and jeopardize his opportunity to go to college. Like many students in Florida, Carlos has his eye set on dual enrollment at Miami–Dade College, which could net him an Associate’s degree by the end of his senior year. “My family doesn’t have a lot of money so getting a head start in school like that might be the only way I can afford to go to college.“ Carlos is not alone in his efforts to find a cost-effective path to college.
Interestingly, Carlos is in the minority of low-income students who go to summer school. On average, only 18% of kids from lower-income households enroll in summer school. In wealthier families, that number is just short of 30%. In both cases, the majority of students are working toward credit recovery, but an increasing number are simply in it for the experience of learning.
A growing love of learning.
In 2021, we are hearing from many students every week who are looking to take courses in the summer so that they can actually enjoy learning again. These students are seeking fun courses, or at least courses that are not absolutely critical for graduation. As the school year draws to a close, Fun summer courses, which, admittedly, are defined very differently by different people, has become a top search term on many schools’ catalog websites. Citizens High School, like many online institutions, is trying to make summer a little bit more fun and a lot more educationally valuable.
Dr. James Etter, president of Citizens High School in Florida, says, “Fun courses are what most educational models are missing. Fun is whatever the student enjoys learning, and it is never bad to encourage learning of any kind.”
The portable classroom.
Recently, the Parent Insights Group, a parent education focus group at Citizens High School—a virtual meeting held roughly quarterly (if you’re interested in joining to share your thoughts and ideas, click here), revealed an aspect of summer school that many educators do not count on. “I know my son will have to repeat geometry, and possibly earth science,“ said Rich, a parent from the mid–Atlantic region. “The problem is, my extended family has the tradition of meeting at the beach for two weeks every summer. The last thing we want to do is miss that because Eric is in school and can’t get travel.“
Rich and Eric are in luck because summer school 2021 is portable. There’s no reason to be locked in a room while your friends are playing in the sun. And there’s no reason for families to miss important events and vacations. You really can have it all. Here’s how.
Summer school classes can be virtual, with lessons and assignments completely delivered online. For families like Rich’s, who’s summer vacation would fall in the middle of an in–person brick–and–mortar school summer session, the mobile classroom is a godsend.
Not only is the classroom portable, it can also be surprisingly engaging. As Dr. Jennifer Blalock, Chief Academic Officer at Citizens High School explains, “Summer school classes can be completed in as few as 28 days. That requires a lot of planning, a little diligence, and some hard work, but it can certainly be done.“ For students not interested in pushing the envelope as far as time goes, a more leisurely pace will add a few weeks to a summer course but achieve the same results: a high school credit that is 100% transferable to the student’s home school.
“Some courses are just plain fun—and that is exactly what they are supposed to be,” explains Citizens High School President Dr. Jim Etter. “For example, we are about to release a course on drone piloting that combines aerodynamics and radio-controlled technology. That’s just fun!” If your a high school student into drones or who would like to learn more about them this would be a fantastic course that is not typical summer school fare.
Civics and activism.
The 2020-2021 school year has been tumultuous because of Covid, but that’s not the only way the life in the United States has been challenging. Protest and activism have been a central theme to many aspects of society over the past year. Citizens High School is launching a brand-new initiative, part of its new way to look at Civics in America. Traditional Civics class teaches about our government and the role of the citizen in it. But equally important—and also very American—is the act of standing up for what we believe in. If a student wants to protest, to become an activist, and to express an opinion publicly, then CHS wants to give credit where it is due. Literally!
Learn more about how to earn high school credit for blogging and vlogging in perhaps the first high school activism program of its kind. It’s launching Summer ‘21, just in time to raise your voice in support of what you think is right. We don’t believe that young people should be seen and not heard. This is our way of helping them express themselves, let their opinions be known, and help make positive change in our country.
Technology certification is increasingly important to learning and careers.
For anyone who is planning a career in, well, anything, a firm grasp of information technology is critical. Summer courses that prepare students for Google, Adobe, or Microsoft certification are an investment toward a promising future. Many colleges today require freshmen to take Microsoft certification courses, and these classes are highly in demand and hard to get into—and they cost a lot of money. Not if you take them in high school!
Google programs run a close second to Microsoft in the business world and are hugely popular in academia. Specialized courses in Analytics and Google’s suite of products for productivity can give students a leg up on the competition in their careers or a head start on the programs used in most colleges today.
Adobe products, such as Photoshop and Illustrator, are the backbone of the graphic design, publications, and communications industries. They are not optional: they are the industry! In my role as the head of marketing at Citizens High School and a 30–year veteran of the creative and marketing fields, I can tell you firsthand the importance of these programs. I don’t even look at the resumes of someone who has not mastered them. Seeing certifications on a résumé is a ticket to the second phase at least in the interview process.
Spending four or six weeks learning top–rated IT programs this summer could be a great way to get ahead for next year—and many years to come. The coursework is not difficult and is very well organized and easy to understand.
For students who want even more challenge, we have classes in animation, robotics, programming, and even game design. LINK TO IT Not only are these fascinating topics that are key subject areas for business and entrepreneurial ventures, but they are also among our most popular courses. Starting with an introduction to programming can be the first step to a highly in-demand career in IT. Entry-level programmers very often start at or around six figures, so forming a foundation early can reap a huge payout later.
We’ve readjusted how we think of summer school.
You should too! Rather than a punishment for poor academics, think of summer school as an opportunity. Students can expand their knowledge, repair the damage from Covid, and set themselves on a path for a promising career.