For a variety of reasons, many schools across the country are switching their schedules to a year-round curriculum, which means that both students and teachers no longer have the traditional two months of summer vacation. While some parents have enjoyed the year-round schedule, others are engaged in a heated debate about the new trend. Some schools are implementing the year-round program to maintain more consistent instruction, while other schools are switching in order to save money. While many parents are concerned about the potential change for their children and family, each schedule offers its own pros and cons.
The Year-Round Calendar
When called a “traditional calendar,” most schools are referring to the most popular schedule, where students and teachers are able to have a two month summer vacation, in addition to the standard holiday breaks throughout the school year. According to NBC 17 News, “Having the summers off is a tradition experts say started nearly a hundred years ago when rural parents needed their kids help to harvest the crops.”
Since the traditional summer vacation is no longer “essential,” experts such as Dr. Cooper at Duke University assert, "They way we've sent our kids to school with regard to a calendar has never been driven by what's best for the child.” As schools are now experimenting with the year-round schedules, many schools are getting rid of the traditional summer vacation, yet are simultaneously providing students with more frequent and consistent breaks from school.
While each school’s schedule may vary slightly, the year round schools in Wake County, North Carolina, for example, have students in class for nine straight weeks, followed by a three week break. This schedule cycles consistently throughout the year, while making minor adjustments for major holidays and teacher work days.
The Year-Round Benefits
According to research data, students in year-round schools are earning high test scores, as many educators argue that students are able to avoid the dreaded “brain drain” during summer vacation. As the NBC 17 News in Wake County reports, traditional schools often spend a great deal of wasted time trying to catch kids up from their long summer vacation. Sixth grade teacher Betsy Winters describes, “The first month or so we spend finding where they are and reviewing what they should have learned and bringing them back up to speed.”
Furthermore, according to Associated Content, the three week breaks, as opposed to one long summer break, also provide both students and teachers with “time to relax and regroup. Teachers who work for year round schools say that it gives them a break when they are on the verge of a meltdown. Studies have shown that year round schools have a lower staff turnover rate. The year round calendar also places teacher workdays in the school calendar where they are most needed (at the end of the nine weeks).This helps teachers catch up on grading and lesson planning.”
And during the three week breaks, many teachers offer “mini-summer school” lessons, where struggling students can come into the school to get help during their time off. For students with special needs, or for students struggling in a particular area, quick interventions such as these can help keep all students on the same pace. Ultimately, according to Dr. Cooper of Duke University, "In about 60 to 65 percent of comparisons, kids on a year-round calendar do better."
The Year-Round Conflict
While many school leaders assert that the year-round calendar is designed to help
students, some parents are not favorably accepting the adjustments. Parents are concerned that their families do not have enough time to take vacations during the summertime. In fact, some parental involvement
goes so far as to keep their kids home until after Labor Day vacation in order to protest and force the school to maintain its traditional calendar.
Paired with this, as The News and Observer describes, the year-round calendar can potentially be a scheduling nightmare for some parents. For example, for one mother in Wake County Schools, “Whenever her daughter's year-round school has been on break, her two sons' high school has been in session -- or vice versa.” In such cases, parents struggle to find times during the year when the whole family has time to relax, travel, or spend time together. Ultimately though, perhaps these parents are fearful of change. When evaluating the test results of students who attend year round school, instead of a traditional schedule, the former outperforms the latter.
The Year-Round Opportunities
While the debate wages on, the test results demonstrate that year-round schools do present significant benefits. Helping students stay motivated, the year-round schedules also present opportunities for students to attend academic camps and club programs
that otherwise would not be available in the summer. Many educators and parents do not feel that kids need a full two months away from school, so while the year-round certainly requires an adjustment, the changes can bring in more consistent rest periods, newer opportunities, and a more refreshing approach to education and learning.