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United States

Wake Year-Round Schools

March 21, 2016

    It’s late August, you walk into your high school and finally see all your classmates after a long three month break. You sit down in your first hour class, and your teacher begins the lesson. To your dismay, you realize you’ve forgotten almost everything on this subject. The next two months of this class will be spent reviewing everything you learned last year. This is a common scene in schools across America. Most schools still operate on a 10-month calendar, which was established when America was still an agrarian country. But times have changed and I propose that we move away from this outdated system and into year round education.
    According to the National Education Association, the most efficient and beneficial use of year round education would be to have schools continue to operate 180 days per year, but they stretch out the 180 days over the entire year and take shorter breaks between each term. The most popular form of year-round education is the 45-15 plan, where students attend school for 45 days and then get three weeks (15 days) off. The usual holiday breaks are still built into this calendar. Two other ways to organize a school calendar are the 60-20 and the 90-30 plans. Perhaps, the most important facet of year-round education is how it is implemented. Schools may operate on a single-track schedule where all students are on the same calendar and get the same holidays off, or a multi-rack schedule, which has groups of students attending school at different times with different vacations. Multi-tracking is popular because it allows schools to enroll more students than buildings would normally hold and works well with larger communities.
    While there are many reasons to implement this change, the most important are; students tend to forget a lot during the summer break, so a shorter time away from school might increase retention rates, it's a more efficient use of school space because otherwise buildings are unoccupied during the summer, and lastly remediation can occur when it is most needed – during the school year.
    Some schools in America have already made the switch. Approximately 2 million U.S. students attend school on year-round schedules every year in around 3,000 schools in 46 states. Many teachers and students agree that they experience less burnout and spend less time reviewing material, since students don’t encounter the “summer slide,” or a loss of learning, said a study from the National Education Association.  The National Summer Learning Association often cites decades of research that support the claim that students really do forget or unlearn things they have learned when too much time off is given between classroom sessions. At-risk students tend to do better in year-round setups, and studies have found that disadvantaged students lose about 27 percent more of their learning gains in the summer months than their peers. By being in school the same number of days, but with shorter breaks, these students are able to keep their minds on a learning track that may not otherwise be fostered at home in the off-months.
    Studies have found that year round education is also financially more efficient. If set into action, we could potentially save on additional average daily attendance (ADA); shared materials (library, computer, audio visual, science resources, textbooks); benefits (calculated on a 12‐month basis for most employees), reduced absenteeism (additional ADA and decreased requests for substitute teachers); and decreased vandalism, according to Hanover Research.
    Due to the frequency of breaks on the year-round calendar, students and teachers exhibit improved morale and motivation, and less burnout and stress (North Carolina Insight, 1997; Minnesota, 1999; Quinlan, George, & Emmett, 1987). A key distinction between the year-round school system and the traditional format is the breaks. The conventional summer break is around three months, normally running from late May-early June to late-August early September. Despite common perceptions, year-long school doesn't mean students go straight through without breaks. The breaks are simply more spread out. Common formats are 60-20, with 60 days of school followed by 20 day breaks, or 45-15, with 45 school days and 15 day breaks. A concern many parents have is that there will be no time for vacations, but with 20 days breaks, that gives families plenty of time for a week long trip to the beach.
    Many concerns prevent school systems from implementing year round school systems, but with a little creative thinking and problem solving many of these concerns can be silenced.  A debate in year-round schooling centers on tourism. Many families traditionally take vacations in the summer. As more year-round schools develop, some cities and businesses are worried about the hit to tourism. Schools also have to adjust extracurricular and sports schedules on a year-round format. Schools must provide bus transportation and get kids involved in practices and games during break periods. Parents argue both sides of the year-long school debate, with family schedules and childcare among the more pressing concerns. In a typical nine-month calendar, working parents have to figure out childcare for young children and summer care for all the kids. In a yearlong schedule, parents don't have to worry about what to do with kids for a three-month summer. However, finding childcare with a period on and a period off is challenging. Some school districts don't have uniform policies. So, some kids may go nine months, while others go year-round. Overall, the benefits of year round education outweigh the faults.
    In summary, America faces a newly globalized economy, rapidly changing demographics, and a lingering and dangerous achievement gap for minority and poor students that continues to sap America's strength by failing to give all children the tools they require to become the highly skilled workforce and engaged citizenry our country needs. Year round education could be the perfect way to remedy that, and will help create a stronger community, we just need to push a little harder and pursue a better education for the children of the future.


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