Published On: Thu, Mar 21st, 2019

Remember to Read Something Over the Spring Break

Boca Raton, FL – Today, ‎196,000 students in the School District of Palm Beach County will begin their coveted spring-break.

And while many students will be heading to local camps or even mini family vacations, many – especially those who are at-potential – will sit idle or do worse. (Many will also go hungry.)

I am calling on parents to encourage your children to pick up a book and read it during the break. After all, anything school-related can sound like “homework” to students. And I know that when the options include swimming, streaming videos or playing video games, going to the mall or hanging out with friends, reading can sometimes be a hard sell.

Studies however show that at-potential children are at a greater risk of losing what they earned when classes are not in session.

Recently, I encouraged some of my mentees to read something over the Spring Break and their response was quite interesting. For a minute, I thought they were unionized. Some see the break as a respite from class.

“Spring Break is our time to get away from school and condition our minds for the weeks leading up to summer,” one reasoned.

My seniors see it as a rite of passage or a reward for slogging through the stressful SATs, personal essays and arduous college admissions process.

While they do not care about reading, some will do so to amuse or even appease me.

When I pointed out that the most recent study ranks the quality of education in Florida at number 25, students should be spending more days in the classroom or a learning environment than they do.

That kicked off a lively debate.

One, who should be destined to an Ivy League college, quickly pointed out that by spending more time in a school building does not always result in a better student. Instead, she said, more time in a learning environment could be a better alternative.

State law requires Palm Beach County schools to hold 180 days of instruction time. In comparison, students in Japan spend 243 days – 63 days longer. And the standard school year in Israel, the Netherlands, Scotland and West Germany is 200 days or more. It should be noted thought that although those countries spend more time in school, this does not mean they are receiving more instruction.

I concur that the antidote is not simply more time in class. In countries that outperform the U.S., students spend less time in class, not more. Children—especially elementary-age students—learn through play and activities.

I also think students should not have to be physically at school every day or all day. This will allow for other learning opportunities and environments to be integrated into a child’s education.

Unfortunately, we would have a better chance of making Palm Beach County the state capital than getting the school district to change the school calendar.

Any such move would be countered with opposition from the teachers’ union, vocal families, the tourism industry and any and everything that could improve academic achievement.

As a proponent of year-round school, I think there should be the equivalent of eight weeks of vacation distributed throughout the year—two weeks every season.

This certainly will reduce the frequency and extent of summer learning loss. It will also afford students an opportunity to job shadow or participate in experiential trips outside of their community or city.

And as I told those students, in the end, their hard work, sacrifice and dedication over Spring Break could be the real keys to their personal and professional success.

 

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