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I became a teacher in 1970. I loved my job but I also love to fish. It would have to be something special to keep me in my vocation nearly 50 years later, when I could immerse myself in my avocation along a tranquil river bank full time. It is.

I served as superintendent of the rural Grandview R-2 School District in Jefferson County for 17 years. More than 30 percent of Missourians live in rural areas, according to the most recent census. From what I’ve seen, rural students are shortchanged when it comes to year-round access to learning.

We rural educators consistently find policy made in Washington is designed to address and fund urban and suburban challenges. While it is true the issues that inner-city school districts grapple with can mirror those in rural areas (poverty, dropout rates and a higher percentage of single-parent homes), there are important differences, which include high transportation costs, declining enrollment and shrinking tax bases. Unfortunately, too often, rural districts do not receive sufficient resources to fund high-quality summer school programs. If rural districts do run a program, often only a limited number of remedial courses are offered.

 Most people aren’t aware of the major role summer learning plays in student achievement, as well as the achievement gap that is too often an unfortunate consequence of a lack of access to summer school. Research from the National Summer Learning Association demonstrates that during the summer months, disadvantaged children fall behind academically, while better-off kids actually build knowledge and skills.

For example, youth from low-income families lose two to three months in reading achievement while their peers from wealthier backgrounds exhibit slight gains, as they remain engaged in academic enrichment activities. In addition to improved literacy, high-quality summer learning programs contribute to improved self-esteem and leadership skills, according to the National Center on Afterschool and Summer Enrichment.

The good news is more than 100 engaging and stimulating courses are being offered this year to all students statewide in grades 7 to 12 through the Missouri Online Summer Institute, where I serve as coordinator. Though in its fifth year of operations, most folks have no idea MOSI exists. Offered tuition-free, courses are taught by state-licensed teachers within a virtual classroom, providing students with an opportunity to catch up or get ahead in their studies on a flexible schedule, ideal for the summer months.

Michael Brown is coordinator of the Missouri Online Summer Institute, which uses the Fuel Education online curriculum with programmatic support services provided by K12 Inc.

Read the rest of the article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

About The Author

Donna Savarese

Donna Savarese is Director of Corporate Communications and Public Relations for K12. Savarese also manages executive speechwriting and internal communications for the company. Previously, she served as a Senior Media Relations Manager within Lockheed Martin’s Worldwide Media Relations (WMR) department. She is a two-time Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist and twice won the Edward R. Murrow Award for journalism while serving as the 6 pm nightly news anchor for five years at KMOV, the CBS affiliate in St. Louis, Missouri. Savarese is the recipient of seven Emmy nominations, including a nomination in Sports and as ‘Best On-Air Talent’.

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