It’s a common misconception that the traditional summer break is a holdover from the time when America was largely agrarian. According to PBS, the summer break actually arose around 1900 as increasing numbers of “middle-class urbanites … [wanted to] flee the city’s heat.” With the advent of air conditioning, however, such migration is no longer as common or necessary, but few schools have readjusted. More should.
Consider, for example, Barcroft Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia, my first alma mater. It modified its school calendar back in 2002, when I was in 3rd grade, by redistributing half of our eight-week-long summer break to other times throughout the regular school year, adding two weeks in October and extending Spring Break by couple weeks. These new vacation blocks were call “intersessions,” and their creation had at least three potential benefits:
- Reduced summer slide
- More access to enrichment
- Better vacations
The loss of learning that typically occurs over a long summer break is so prevalent that it has its own name, “the summer slide.” While the term may sound like a playground, it isn’t any fun, especially for low-income students who suffer the steepest decline in skills and knowledge. Psychologist Harris Cooper...