When Is Summer School a Good Idea?

Reasons for Going to Summer School

summer school
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Question: When is summer school a good idea?

Answer: If it's recommended your child go to summer school or if you're looking to enroll him in a private program, it's important to take a quick look at the reasoning behind the idea. Though summer learning is beneficial to all children, the school environment isn't the best place for every child to learn over the summer. Here are few circumstances in which summer school may be a good option for your child:

  1. The school has made promotion to the next grade contingent on successful completion of a summer school program. While this is more often the case in middle and high school, it does happen in elementary schools, especially if your child has missed a lot of school and is far behind his peers. Before enrolling him, however, ask how the determination for promotion will be made. For instance, ask if there a comprehensive test that he has already taken and will take again for score and skill comparison.
  2. Your child has mild deficits or gaps in one specific subject. If your child is, for example, unable to learn division because he is having trouble with multiplication, then a few weeks of intensive math tutoring may give him the leg up he needs to be ready to face next year's math class with ease.
  3. A small group setting works well with your child's learning style. Some kids just don't learn well in large classes and need a little individual attention. If this is the case for your child and her schoolwork has suffered for it, then a small group summer school program could be very helpful in boosting her skills and her confidence.
  1. Your child's IEP  includes Extended School Year services (ESY). ​Not all children in special education programs have this provision in their IEP, but if the team has determined that a break from schooling or the school routine would cause significant summer learning loss, it's likely to be in the plan. In this case, not only is summer school a good idea, but your school district is legally required to provide it.
  1. Your child  is skipping a grade. Skipping a grade doesn't happen that often, but sometimes there are students for whom it's the best way to keep them challenged academically. That being said, many children who skip a grade are found to have minor gaps in their knowledge somewhere down the academic road. If your child is going to be skipped, ask for her to take the end-of-the-year tests administered to the students in the grade she is skipping. This will show any skill areas in which she needs some extra help, which can be provided in a summer school setting.

Most importantly, don't forget to ask key questions before agreeing to send your child to summer school. A few to start with include:

  • Does he need to participate in the school's program or would a ​​private tutor suffice?
  • Who will be teaching the class and how much experience does the teacher have?
  • How much one-to-one learning time will your child get during summer school?
  • Who sets the curriculum? (i.e. Will your child's specific needs be addressed or is the program more generalized?)

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