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EDUCATION REPORT - Summer School in the U.S. - 2004-07-21

Broadcast: July 22, 2004

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.

Recently we discussed the idea of year-round schools. Students do not get a long break from classes during the hot summer months. Instead, they get shorter breaks throughout the year. Not very many schools in the United States do this. But other schools that are not year-round do often have summer programs.

In many cases, students take summer classes to repeat a subject they failed. This way they get a second chance to succeed. But schools also offer summer classes to students who want to be free of a required class during the next school year.

Generally, students in these classes want to take fewer subjects during the year because they are involved in a lot of activities. They might be involved in sports or music programs. Or both -- and more.

These summer school students do the same amount of work as if they took the class during the school year. But they do it in a much shorter time, one to two months. They say it makes for a lot of reading and homework and not much time for anything else. Some education experts are worried about high school students who take summer school because of pressure to attend a top university.

The New York Times recently reported about summer classes at one of the best high schools in the United States. New Trier High School is in Winnetka, Illinois. Almost six hundred students are in school this summer. Only twenty are repeating classes that they failed. The others are in difficult courses like physics and honors history.

The students say taking classes like these in the summer means that they can take even more difficult classes next year. They say this shows colleges not only that they are serious about their studies. It also shows that they have experienced the most difficult high school program possible.

Another place with a lot of students in summer school is Palo Alto, California. The Mercury News reported that about twenty percent of the students in the city schools are in class this summer. That is more than two thousand teen-agers.

A third are in classes they failed before. The others are taking subjects they do not have time for during the normal school year.

But they are not taking subjects like physics and history. The students in Palo Alto are in classes like creative writing, film studies, literature and cooking.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.