Doors are opening at Michigan schools this week and next, releasing students for 10 weeks away from their books and lessons.

During that summer vacation, on average a month of math skills will drain from their brains.

And if they’re poor and attend an urban school, they’ll lose three months of reading comprehension. The bigger fall-off is attributable to fewer learning opportunities in summer camps and on family vacations for poorer kids.

Educators call it the summer slide, and have been fretting about it for 100 years.

Over the course of their school careers, kids lose the equivalent of one year of learning time as they shake away the cotton candy cobwebs. The cost to do remedial training for a month each fall costs the state about $2 billion.

Reformers, including Gov. Rick Snyder, propose giving school districts the option of doing away with the lengthy summer hiatus and replacing it with several shorter breaks sprinkled throughout the year.

Michigan law, driven by the tourism industry, effectively bans year-round education by mandating a post-Labor Day start for the school year.

And yet schools that have gained waivers from the state for a year-round schedule achieve markedly higher test scores, according to a report by the Center for Michigan.

So it would seem a no-brainer to put all students on a year-round schedule to stop the knowledge seepage.

But in Michigan, culture and tradition are often immovable objects.

“Our parents were angry and distressed,” says Margaret Trimer-Hartley, when she told them the University Prep Math and Science Middle School in Detroit would be ending summer breaks starting next year. “They couldn’t imagine losing their summer vacation.”

Even when the benefits were explained, the push-back was strong, says Trimer-Hartley, whose Math and Science High School is the only year-round public school in Wayne County.

Same thing in Lake Orion, where the district is proposing a modified year-round schedule after seeing impressive results at its Carpenter Elementary, which has been on the alternative calendar for years.

Parents complained about the loss of summer leisure time to bond with their kids, and worried students would burn out without an extended break.

Other concerns were raised about arranging child care and adjusting athletic seasons.

And yet, the payoff is well-documented. In Holt, students at Horizon Elementary, a year-round school, post the district’s highest test scores. In Grand Rapids, four year-round schools are pushing students ahead faster than those on the traditional calendar.

Michigan faces a lot of tests of its commitment to do the hard things necessary to return to prosperity.

When Snyder’s proposal to permit year-round schooling hits the Legislature, expect the lobbying against it to be furious from the tourism industry, school unions and parents.

But if we’re going to get competitive in education, we have to stand firm for what’s best for kids and stop allowing so much valuable knowledge to drain into the summer sands.

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Source: The Detroit News –