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Why Summer School is Important for the Atypical Student

Authored By: 
Maren Holmen, Director of The Tutoring School

Summer school is much-maligned. There are relatively few students, parents, or teachers who look at summer school as a golden opportunity, and so it always gets a bad rap. But there is a reason why there are a number of articles, blogs, and listicles about how to fight the “summer slide.” If this loss of knowledge over the summer (or any long absence from school) is so prevalent and known to be detrimental, why do people still hate summer school?

Maybe it’s because it seems pointless for many students—and, I suppose, given our current education model, it is not necessary for a number of students. However, for those students who are “atypical,” summer school is that chance to make sure that the coming school year isn’t as difficult as the previous one. Who are these “atypical” students, though?

English Language Learners (ELLs): If a student is not a native English speaker, the expectation that they will take classes with those students who are can be daunting. ELLs can benefit immensely by taking an English or ESOL course over the summer before they start the regular school year so that they can focus solely on English skills and not on subjects like math or history. In a 2015 report, the National Center on Time and Learning recognizes the benefits of expanded learning time on closing the achievement gap between ELLs and non-ELLs.

Students who are missing credits: There are students who are missing credits not because they failed a course or two, but because they changed schools and missed something in the sequence or they were out on an extended leave of absence. Summer school provides the opportunity to graduate with their class instead of the infamous (and often unnecessary) “repeat year.”

Students with learning difficulties (LD Students): For students who struggle to keep up in a mainstream classroom, summer classes in writing, math, or study skills can help them work on those foundations that will make the following year not quite so difficult.

Gifted Students: Although gifted students typically excel faster than their classmates, they are not ensured against “summer slide.” In addition to preventing summer learning loss, these students can be introduced to new topics and develop new skills, or they can focus on core skills in order to expedite graduation.

Summer school is probably never going to be warmly accepted by most people, but it is important to recognize how vital it can be to a student’s growth. A well-balanced and personalized academic curriculum during the summer months could set students on the right path for success, rekindle interest in learning and increase student motivation and self-esteem, especially if it is tailored to the student’s individual needs.


We are welcoming students to class this fall either via a hybrid in-person/online learning model in NYC or via fully remote, synchronous online classes. 

Learn more about our re-opening plan and response to COVID-19 >