May 28 2010, 9:48 AM
For school kids, summer vacation is an institution. For most schools, the big break---marked by camp, Little League, swimming pools, Fourth of July fireworks, and long days under the hot sun---begins around this time of year and lasts until sometime no kid wants to talk about in August. Now---in what would be a major cultural shift---a growing number of reformers, including the federal education secretary, are supporting the idea of year-round school, according to The Denver Post. The idea is to prevent what's called "the summer slide," when kids seem to lose their educational momentum. In a video on the U.S. Education Department's website, Secretary Arne Duncan says the idea of summers off is based in older, more agrarian times, when kids were needed to help in the fields. Research shows most students fall behind in math, for instance, over the summer, particularly those kids from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. While it's a far call from ending summer vacation, Congress is expected to vote on a bill to grant $23 billion to pay for a variety of initiatives, including summer-enrichment classes. And despite tight budgets, many local school districts still offer summer programs, such as Denver Public Schools' efforts, which include two-week preparation academies for sixth- and ninth-graders, funded by stimulus dollars. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was in Denver at an event that illustrated the advantages of a private school education, according to the Denver Daily News. Seeming to riff on the tough, new state law requiring teachers to show students' progress before they earn and retain tenure, Romney says he is in favor of holding teachers accountable for student progress. He says he favors withholding financial resources and intervening with union contracts in situations where students are not performing well.