×

My Turn: Shorter summer breaks help workforce



For the Monitor
Thursday, September 14, 2017

In Virginia, it is referred to as “The King’s Dominion Bill.” In Maryland, the governor went to Ocean City to sign the bill into law. These bills are the model that Gov. Chris Sununu wants New Hampshire to adopt. And the governor’s thinking is right in line with Maryland and Virginia.

The enthusiasm for requiring that no school start before Labor Day has nothing to do with our children’s education. It has to do with attendance at summer destinations.

Gov. Sununu says this will strengthen the economy. But will it?

New Hampshire’s employers of all political persuasions are asking for qualified workers. Qualified workers are educated workers.

As Jeff Smink noted in a New York Times op-ed piece: “If students are not engaged in learning over the summer, they lose skills in math and reading. Summers off are one of the most important, yet least acknowledged, causes of underachievement in our schools.”

And in this, and in so many other policies, the loss falls most heavily on low-income children whose parents likely have neither the time nor the resources to send their children to camps or take them on educational trips.

Smink refers to a Johns Hopkins study in Baltimore that found about two-thirds of the achievement gap between lower-and higher-income ninth-graders could be explained by summer learning loss during the elementary school years.

This is not what employers want when they talk about workforce preparedness. Falling behind in elementary school increases the likelihood of even greater loss in high school.

A RAND Corporation report states that the average loss in math and reading for American students amounts to one month per year, and the loss for low-income students is closer to two months.

Use it or lose it is a principle that we all recognize.

Schools all over the country have recognized the soundness of the research that encourages shorter summer vacations. And they have proven the accuracy of that research by decreases in the summer “slide” and increased performance.

Teachers have to spend less time getting children back to where they were at the end of the previous school year before they can move on to the current year’s curriculum.

Automobile manufacturers do not agree to the gasoline producers’ request for less efficient cars so that they might sell more gasoline. Manufacturers do not choose to buy poorly made parts so that the parts manufacturer might increase its profit. So too, those responsible for the system of public education in New Hampshire should not agree to a calendar that might increase the profit of a summer resort at the expense of the quality and effectiveness of education that is available to the future workforce of the state.

(Marjorie Smith represents Durham and Madbury in the New Hampshire House.)