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Summer assignments: more excessive than effective

Daniel Scrivener '18, News Editor

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The arrival of summer vacation may appear welcoming to high school students, but the increased responsibility that comes with age has certainly muted the season’s festivities.

Indeed, the term “summer vacation” may seem like a misnomer; new responsibilities such as athletic commitments, part-time jobs, and driver’s education occupy much of this valuable time and preclude students from hard-earned leisure.

Yet at the same time these rites of passage become necessary in the lives of teenagers, it appears that another obligation has materialized in tandem with the goal of transferring part of the academic workload from the school year to the summertime.

Summer assignments are hardly a novel invention, but their enduring presence in our education system—specifically, BC High’s curriculum—deserves a fresh examination for an era where many students profess that their agendas are overburdened.

The most obvious motives for assigning summer work are easy to see: maintaining academic engagement throughout the duration of a student’s education would appear to prevent declines in performance, the same rationale that drives the summer tutoring market.

Additionally, the amount of content that teachers are required to cover in a course can become extensive, and so teachers may choose to have students learn part of the material outside the classroom.

This appears to be especially true for Advanced Placement courses: out of the 26 courses at BC High requiring summer work, 18 are AP.

Standardized testing further augments the need to complete a curriculum, perhaps providing teachers with less of a choice as they continue adding to the list of assignments students must compete before returning to school.

Summer work expectations also vary widely by department; English classes typically require students to hone reading and writing skills by examining novels or works of nonfiction, while history and science classes are more content-driven, assigning notes.

In spite of these benefits, some of the summer assignment’s disadvantages threaten its role in academic institutions such as BC High. Although the aforementioned objectives of summer work are worthwhile, it is debatable that they are truly being fulfilled; the major concern with summer work is its efficacy compared with work completed during the school year.

Many students cite the prevalence of cramming, where work ends up being completed within a highly condensed time period—usually the last week of August.

Even when students finish work, it remains possible that their methods of completion influence the degree to which they make genuine academic progress, which can foretell consequences for an end-of-year standardized test.

It is likely better to have covered material a year before a test than to have skipped it entirely, but it remains to be seen whether the performance gains of fortuitous fact recollection outweigh the advantages of more free time.

Currently, The Eagle is not aware of any interdepartmental motions to modify existing summer reading policies; however, this does not guarantee that summer work is the absolute best method of handling burdensome College Board curriculums or students who happen to have idle time.

Although teachers may feel pressured to address content, perhaps other adjustments must be made to account for time, such as faster courses and increased homework during the school year—especially if the goal is to ensure high AP scores.

Ultimately, BC High’s ever-exhausted student body could probably use a dedicated period of extra sleep, even if those extra history chapters eventually find their way into the lives of students.

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The Eyes and Ears of BC High.
Summer assignments: more excessive than effective