Monday, April 5, 2010

Beyond Passover and Easter: It Can’t Be Long Now

Ok, spring is officially here. Now Easter, Passover, and probably spring break are past us. And this means that our students’ thoughts are turning to the end of the school year and summer. This is really an anachronistic way of thinking.

The notion of “the end of the year” is really a relic of the by gone influence of the agricultural cycle on the school calendar. Students were needed to work the fields in the summer and so couldn’t go to school. And along with that developed the idea that if we had to have “summer school” it was only for dummies. Nothing could be further from the truth now.

The reality is that “summer school” is for the fast burners. And more importantly, thanks to research analysis performed by Clifford Adelman and reported in his noteworthy “Tool Box Revisited”, we know that any participation in summer school, actually predicts for higher graduation rates, especially in minority students.

In work I have been spending recently in thinking about sophomore student success institute, in which I am going to participate next week, organized by USC, I recall that one of the challenges of our second year students is simply getting them back started in the routine of college again after their first summer “off”. After all, they really hadn’t been in college very long and were just beginning to get acclimated and then we excuse them for four months or so. This provides more than ample opportunity for our students to—as the southern Baptists used to say “backslide”.

So, in the next 4-6 weeks ago, in your concluding conversations with students for the term, I hope you are getting them to consider going to summer school, or to at least some way stay connected to your college experience. What are some other ways to do this:

1. Take a summer course at another institution

2. Engage in “pre-reading” for courses for which they are pre-registered for next fall
3. Stay in touch with new friends, including faculty and staff they met this year
4. Find summer employment in some context that might be related in some way to their academic field of interest
5. Related thereto, try to find an internship, practicum before the term ends
6. Consider registering for an independent study which they could do over the summer
7. Seek employment on your campus and don’t go home at all!

The above list is by no means exhaustive. Bottom-line theme: stay connected. It will increase their probability for success next year and ultimate graduation. The sooner they learn that “school is never really over” the better.

-John Gardner

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