Rethinking Summer

Friday, May 08, 2015

By Aubrey Perry & Devora Shamah

Summer is generally considered a time for relaxation and play for students. However, for many college students it can be a time to either move toward completion or a time to get off track in their educations. It is well accepted that summer education experiences are important for young children[i], and we find these experiences are equally important for college students.

Gateway to college students are dual credit students working toward high school diplomas while taking college classes at community colleges. These students have had barriers to their educations in the past and were unsuccessful in traditional high schools. Our data show that Gateway to College students who chose to enroll in at least one summer class have continued to take classes in the fall at higher rates than their peers who took summer off. The summer students also passed their future courses at higher rates and ultimately earning their high school diplomas. While our data is not conclusive and may not reflect the experiences of all college students, it does suggest that as educators, we need to pay more attention to what we offer students during summer terms. Others have found similar trends[ii].

We know it is more difficult for students to return from a summer break than the shorter winter and spring breaks[iii].

For Gateway to College Students Summer was helpful because:

  • Smaller classes provided a good opportunity to take more challenging courses
  • Smaller classes provide opportunities for students to connect with each other and ensures that individuals are spending time with others who share their goals
  • More opportunities to complete developmental courses and “make-up time” which is especially key for students who need multiple course sequences before moving into their degree requirements
  • Students in our analysis had slightly higher pass rates in summer course, perhaps because they were focused on fewer courses at a time

Traditionally colleges have long summer breaks. Summer classes or activities certainly do not need to eliminate summer vacations. At the same time, colleges should intentionally provide ways for students to stay connected with each other so they can support each other’s journey toward their goals and ultimately their accomplishments.

Recommendations

  • Summer courses are a good idea
  • Summer is a good time to focus on core subject areas
  • For students who need to increase work hours in summer, alternate activities on campus may support similar goals
  • Summer service learning projects
  • Summer workshops/seminars focused on career exploration
  • Short workshops to prep for fall courses
  • Social events to bring students together on campus

Download the Poster Here: Summer-Enrollment-Poster-307

slowing.summer.slide.gtcnn

Footnotes

[i] Alexander, K. L., Entwisle, D. R., & Olson, L. S. (2007). Lasting consequences of the summer learning gap. American Sociological Review72, 167–180.

[ii] Adelman, C. (2006). The toolbox revisited: Paths to degree completion from high school through college. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/toolboxrevisit/toolbox.pdf

Edgecombe, N. (2011). Accelerating the academic achievement of students referred to developmental education. New York: Community College Resource Center. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED516782.pdf

[iii] Attewell, P., Heil, S., & Reisel, L. (2011). What Is academic momentum? And does it matter? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis34(1), 27–44.

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