Over the summer, students binge the latest Netflix original, sunbathe on the beach and sleep until noon. Regardless of the activity, students’ summer plans don’t usually involve learning or thinking analytically.
Assigned summer school work is more about quantity than quality. We’re forced to annotate book after book and work for hours on math packets. But we should prioritize quality work; a qualitative approach would encourage students to think critically and stay engaged with learning over the summer break.
Quality summer work would ensure that AP teachers don’t have to rush through the material before the AP exam. Snow days and other unplanned delays frequently push classes behind schedule. However, assigning quality work over the summer could relieve some of the pressure on students and teachers. This work would make it easier for students to jump right into coursework at the beginning of the year—they would already be in the right mindset to learn.
Quality work is also more valuable to students than busy work in the long run. A study by the Economics of Education review found that science, history and English homework have little impact on students’ test scores. But if the work made students engaged and work effectively, homework wouldn’t just be a waste of time.
In English class, the standard summer assignment is usually reading and annotating a book that is normally required or chosen from the teacher’s list. A creative alternative could be to have students record what they did over the summer in a diary. This would allow students to practice their writing skills while being able to reflect on their summer.
Opponents argue that large amounts of summer work take a lot of time, so students benefit more. However, with this system in place, students aren’t actually actively learning; they’re just doing busy work. Quality work also takes a substantial amount of time, but the difference is that quality work is challenging and immersive. Rather than mindless, boring tasks, students would be engaged, active learners—just outside of the typical classroom setting.
The value of quantitative summer work can be measured with a single number, while the value of quality summer work has infinite end results. In summer work, quality beats quantity—every single time.