--Original published at Anneka's Blog
Growing up, my school year always started in September and went until mid-June. Our summer vacation lasted mid-June to August for a total of around two-and-a-half months off school. We typically went Monday through Friday with occasional breaks and Christmas and Spring Break. It was not until my pen pal from Indiana told me about her year long school system that I was introduced to an alternative schooling method. Schools around the country vary in the education systems. Tne long-running debate about better education for children is between year-round schooling versus the traditional nine month period.
Maine Taste Force’s report on year-round education describes the details of the system and its benefits for Maine’s students. Year-round schooling, despite its name, still has the same average 180 school days as a typical system. School occurs during all twelve months of the year with a cycle of around three months of education and one month of vacation. They can, in addition, have a multiple schedule system. Teachers and students are broken into different groups with each group’s education and vacation periods staggered a month following the previous group. One group is on break while the rest are in session.
Maine promotes year-round schooling as it can increase education potential. Other school reports have discovered positive implements of year-round education. Oxnard California year-round schools saw an increase in reading, writing and mathematics scores. A Virginia high school had an increase in state testing scores. Second it has increased attendance. Due to the an increase in vacations, students are less prone to call in sick days. Schools in Jefferson County, Colorado saw drop out rates decrease from five percent to two percent. It is believed that missing a smaller period is more beneficial versus a period in the traditional system. Third, it increases information retention. Students lose the information they have learned over the course of nine months during summer vacation in a traditional run school, and teachers have to review previous information for a significant period during the beginning of the school year. In year-round school, with only a month’s break, more time can be spent teaching new material thus increasing learning. Last, breaks give opportunities for students and families alike. Extra classes as a prerequisite classes, additional classes, or make up work can be scheduled.
Alberta, Canada is home to more than 20 schools that have year-round schedules. The Globe and Mail shared to the public Peel District School Board’s four-year study that followed students at Roberta Bondar Public School, a year-round school, with control traditional school. Results revealed similar results to the points Maine Task Force listed: greater retention and increased time on new material. Summer activities including camps, a counterpoint that people use against year-round schedules because of conflicts, are mainly affordable only by the higher socioeconomic classes. For parents who have difficulty finding activities or supervision for their children due to work, year-round schools offer easier options. Even the students support this alternative method. Thirteen year old Amandeep Pabla states that it eliminates spending time in front of a screen, eating junk food, and forgetting past year’s lessons. Sacha Malhi, a nine years-old enjoys having multiple breaks during the year versus one lengthy break.
Boyd F. Jensen, a former Utah State Board of Education member, shares his opinion in favor of traditional schooling. Six elementary schools in Salt Lake City Utah (in 2011) were running on the year-round schooling system. There was no academic advantage for those in year-round as only half of the students met Utah government’s Adequate Yearly Progress in comparison to the 80% of traditional students. Funding the school year around is also is more costly. Some of the $128,000 increase goes towards air conditioning the schools in August. Jensen advices putting money towards group tutoring, a method that has been study supported. Paul von Hippel’s study shows that the alternative schooling had no effect on the student’s education. Teachers spent the same amount of time reviewing information at the start of the academic year regardless of method. Summer break gives time for students to work, attend tutoring, practice other skills, and spend time with family. These aspects are just as important. The applause for teaching goes to the teachers, parents, and students, not the calendar.
Matthew Lynch advocates for year-round schooling; however, in his article, he brings to light three concerns people have against it. He seconds the expensive aspect of year round schooling especially during the summer hours where air-condition is continually run. Bills tend to increase four to eight percent. Especially with multi-track schooling, this adds an additional three months of billing. Yearly additions to bills may be a financial struggle or an reason to increase tuition. The second point is the diminished time spent outside. Break during summer allows time for children to spend time outside, and this time away creates a healthier growth. The last argument is the scheduling conflicts in year-round schooling. The community is concerned about the ability to find childcare during the more frequent breaks and conflicts with camps that run multiple weeks or the majority of the summer time.
After reading about multiple aspects of year round education, I can see both sides of the argument. The main argument for year-round schooling is the claim that it will reduce education loss during the break. I personally think that either way, there is going to be learning loss between breaks. Students are taught to quickly memorize information, reproduce it on tests, and repeat with new information. The previous information are disregarded. With less memory pathways the information is lost eventually. Much of the information from my world cultures class senior year of high school is lost. The focus is geared towards grades for college, and if students do not enjoy the subject they may not have the desire to remember it. To pick a side, I currently lean towards traditional schooling, but I am not disregarding year-round schooling benefits. I have enjoyed spending my three months of vacation with family, friends, and at camps. Though I cannot disagree with the fact that many kids are now spending time indoors with technology. I do think that year-round can help with memory.
I think a solution to this dilemma is a mixture of both traditional and year-round. Boyd Jensen’s mention of how it’s not the calendar that teaches children, got me thinking. After almost completing my first year of college, having the small breaks between learning (a month vacation between fall and spring semester and several four through seven day breaks) helped with my mental health and motivation. I think expanding the school year frame slightly to maybe just two months of vacation and then put more breaks to divide the semester would be helpful. In addition, adding summer work due the following year could help with retention. I remember always having a summer work packet for my math classes to help with retention. I think memory loss can be reduced if we look into other methods not just a calendar change.
Jensen, B.F. (2011, January 30). Year-round schools don’t work, so districts should abandon the idea. Desert News. Retrieved from https://www.deseretnews.com
Lynch M. (2016, October 27). 3 reasons not to adopt year-round schooling. Retrieved from The Advocate website: http://www.theedadvocate.org/3-reasons-not-to-adopt-year-round-schooling/
Maine Task Force. (January 1994). Rethinking the school calendar. A report of maine’s task force on year around education. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED380905.pdf
Stechyson N. (2010, August 6). Students in year-round schools do better, study shows. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com