Experiment with spring break 'vacation academies' yields modest results
- Some at-risk middle school students in Springfield, Massachusetts who were invited to attend math “vacation academies” over spring break the past two years scored higher than their peers on end-of-grade tests and were suspended less often, demonstrating the value of intensive small-group instruction, Chalkbeat reports.
- During the camp, students received roughly 25 extra hours of math instruction in small class settings and 35% scored proficient on state math tests compared to 25% of similar students who did not attend. Suspension rates improved as well as only 7% of participants were suspended in the days following the break compared to 10% of students in the control group.
- However, student demographics for the experiment were different than overall student demographics as only students who were considered likely to “benefit and behave” were chosen to attend, leaving open the question of how the program would affect students who have disciplinary issues.
While some educators feel that spring break offers a time for students to recuperate, others feel that students do not need a break from learning. It is clear, however, that spring break could be used as a time to help students who have fallen behind at a time that would especially benefit them in preparing for state tests.
If schools offer such programs, there is a cost involved. Schools would need to factor in the cost of extra pay for teachers, providing transportation, and utilities. School leaders would also need to make these school days fun so that students would be willing to attend. These barriers may make the scenario difficult for some school districts.
Another option may be to provide online learning options during spring break. These options would have to provide a way to monitor student progress, and teachers would need to be available to provide support. Schools may also need to provide some sort of incentive or penalty to encourage compliance. However, the results may be an increase in knowledge and student confidence in the subject matter at a lower cost.