By Julia Duin, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Julia Duin teaches journalism at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She worked in newspapers for 25 years, including stints at the Houston Chronicle, the Washington Times, and for the past two years, as a contributing writer for the Washington Post Sunday magazine. Her website is juliaduin.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliaduin.
(CNN) - Remember those late summer days, just before the start of school, when you knew you were free as a bird until Labor Day?
I used to enjoy them, too. And then I moved to West Tennessee.
The Volunteer State is one of 10 states - all in the South except for Utah and Arizona - where a majority of schools begin classes before August 15. I’m willing to bet the school start dates here are the earliest in the country. Nashville public schools will begin their classes next summer on August 1. In Chattanooga, it will be August 8. Memphis will start August 5. Things are a little saner in Knoxville, where schools will begin August 21 this year.
But recently, my local school board in Madison County voted to begin school on August 2.
Yes, August 2. I’m the parent of a first-grader in one of the elementary schools in Jackson, a city of 65,211 an hour east of Memphis. It is best known as the place where legendary railroad engineer Casey Jones grew up. It is a center for cotton, soybeans, a Pringles Potato Chips plant - and early schools.
Before moving here, I lived in Maryland, a state that Education Week recently anointed as having the country’s best schools. We started school around the third week in August and ended in early June. Most of the country cannot comprehend starting school August 2.
I like to spend summers near family in the Pacific Northwest, where summer doesn't even kick in until July and August and September are the best months to be there. All around the country, there are reunions, sporting events, fairs, festivals and zillions of outdoor events in August. All my college friends from Oregon are having our once-every-five-years reunion the second weekend of August. In 2008, I went. This year, I will be stuck in Tennessee.
(CNN) - Three struggling elementary schools in Yonkers, New York, are dramatically reducing the length of summer vacation in an attempt to turn the institutions around.
The schools days will be longer, and summer vacation will last only one month, starting August 1.
Some parents are upset, saying it cuts down on valuable family time, and kids' opportunities to participate in summer sports and activities. A researcher argues that kids aren't robots, and can benefit from a break.
But Bernard Pierorazio, superintendent of Yonkers Public Schools, say the decision is made.
"We have to do something different," he said.
What do you think? Would shorter summers would help your children learn, or improve their schools? Share your thoughts in the comments, or on Twitter @CNNschools.
by CNN Student News and CNN Schools of Thought staff
(CNN) – In June 2012, CNN and 21st Century Leaders partnered for the 7th annual Leadership Unplugged: A CNN Experience program. The week-long event brings 75 Georgia high school students together to learn about the journalism industry and experience life on a college campus.
During the week, students participate in workshops and panel discussions with CNN executives and personnel, examining how news stories are selected and produced, various news platforms, issues of ethics and diversity in the news, and the role that social media and audience interaction play in modern-day journalism.
Throughout the week, student groups develop story ideas into five-minute pitch presentations, which are made to a panel of CNN executives. The presentations are scored on creativity and relevancy to a 16-21 year old audience.
Editor's note: Montse Cordero is a 17-year-old student from Costa Rica participating in the Foundation for International Space Education's United Space School, a two-week summer program in Houston. She'll be blogging about her experiences in the program here. Need to catch up? Check out all her previous posts here.
I'm starting to get the feeling that all of these posts start the same way, but it's for a good reason: Every day is absolutely amazing in its own way!
Today started early again. Before school, our host took us to see some big vacuum chambers used for testing at Johnson Space Center. There are two chambers in the building: one, that is pretty gigantic, where they will test the James Webb Space Telescope, and another one that’s smaller.
The smaller one is actually human rated, so they’ll test space suits there (with people inside!). The big one takes over 12 hours to reach testing level of vacuum, and the smaller one will take more than eight. They are both quite impressive, we really enjoyed seeing them and learning about them.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Montse Cordero is a 17-year-old student from Costa Rica participating in the Foundation for International Space Education's United Space School, a two-week summer program in Houston. She'll be blogging about her experiences in the program here. Need to catch up? Check out her first post: Getting ready to explore space school, and her log of the first two days.
I’ve been a space geek for a pretty long time, so being at space school is like a dream come true. I’ve wanted to learn everything related to space since I was a little girl. Influence from my parents and going to Space Camp, along with a few other factors, got me to where I am now, but I never imagined I’d get to do things like the ones I’ve been doing these days. The most amazing part is that it’s only day two!
Today started early at Johnson Space Center, where we visited their acoustics laboratory. The laboratory is where they test spaceships and their components before they fly to make sure the vibrations from the launch won't damage them. From there we went to the University of Houston, Clear Lake where our classes take place. It was pretty exciting; we knew we were getting our team assignments.FULL STORY
by Montse Cordero, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Montse Cordero is a 17-year-old student from Costa Rica participating in the Foundation for International Space Education's United Space School, a two-week summer program in Houston. She'll be blogging about her experiences in the program here. If you missed it, check out her first post: Getting ready to explore space school.
All the students arrived today. I was dropped off at a house where I met a few other students from all over the world. There were people from New Zealand, Wales, Canada, the U.S., and Costa Rica. They all seemed really cool! Eventually, my host family picked my roommate Alex (who is American) and I up.
We drove around Houston for a little bit and took pictures with T-38s and other cool things. We had some great food for dinner and discussed what the school was going to be like.FULL STORY
by Montse Cordero, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Montse Cordero is a 17-year-old student from Costa Rica, participating in the Foundation for International Space Education's United Space School, a two-week summer program in Houston. She'll be blogging about her experiences in the program here.
In February, I got an e-mail that I’d been hoping to receive for almost three months. It was from Estrategia Siglo XXI, a Costa Rican nonprofit organization that promotes science and technology, saying I’d earned a scholarship for United Space School in Houston. It made me extremely happy, and it began a long period of waiting for July 22.
In November, I was invited to apply for one of two scholarships to attend United Space School. I’d barely even heard of it, so I went online to find out what it was about, and I fell in love. It's a program that invites teenagers from all over the world to Houston.FULL STORY
By Jeff DeHayes, CNN
(CNN) - With schools letting out for summer all over the country, it's time to talk about summer camp.
For some, camp is something to look forward to all year long, where new friends are made and old friends reconnect. For others, watching “The Parent Trap” might be the only summer camp experience they have.
However you remember it, camp serves up memories of cabins, sleeping bags, campfires, ghost stories, shaving cream fights, catching lizards - and for fans of that movie, possibly discovering you have a long lost twin.
Summer camp can serve multiple purposes. It can fill what might otherwise be an uneventful couple of months when hanging out in front of the TV isn't an option. Camps also provide much-needed childcare, especially in households where both parents work.
By Gary Huggins, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Thursday is Summer Learning Day. Gary Huggins is CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, a national nonprofit organization based in Baltimore that connects and equips schools, providers, communities and families to deliver high-quality summer learning opportunities to our nation’s youth to help close the achievement gap and support healthy development.
There’s a flaw in our summer equation.
Summer break is a treasured American tradition that arose from the need for children to work on farms during the warm-weather months. But while summer is a special time of year, it’s turning into a missed opportunity, at a huge cost.
It seems that for many, summer vacation has now come to equal not just a break from school, but a break from any kind of learning. Summer means freedom for schoolchildren to do absolutely nothing, for three long months.
There is nothing wrong with taking breaks. Everyone needs them. Time off from the regular school routine and curriculum allows students and teachers to recharge their batteries and do things differently.
But we collectively pay a steep bill for our prolonged break from learning. Research shows students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of the summer than they do at the beginning. Most students lose two months’ worth of math skills each summer, and low-income children lose another two to three months in reading, putting them chronically behind their better-off peers. That’s an incredible waste of the resources we pour into the school year.
Here’s the real flaw in the equation. Our attitude toward summer tells young people that summer is for fun and not learning. Therefore, what we’re really telling them is that learning is the opposite of fun.
By John Martin, CNN
(CNN) – About 14 million children will participate in summer programs across America this year. An estimated 24 million more children “are on the outside, looking in,” Gary Huggins, CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, told CNN. Their parents would enroll them in these programs if they were available and affordable.
Walmart and its philanthropy arm, the Walmart Foundation, announced on Wednesday that it is giving $20 million to support youth summer programs that promote healthy meals, educational opportunities and employment and skills training.
The six grant recipients are the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA); National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA); National Summer Learning Association (NSLA); Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP); Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL); and Brandeis University. They operate or support summer programs in 350 communities.
NSLA, ICP and BELL will focus on summer learning initiatives. A Johns Hopkins study shows that low-income students can lose two months of math and reading ability over a nonproductive summer.
NSLA’s Huggins told CNN "there is a growing recognition among [school] district leaders that students are losing ground, and we have to stop that."