No more summer vacations is what most people think of when they hear the phrase 'year round education'. But is that all that the concept embodies? Is year round education a reform that will greatly increase student learning? Or is it another attempt to oversimplify the problems with education?
Definition of Year Round Education
Schools in America operate on a 10-month system. This was established when the United States was still a largely agrarian nation. Children were often needed to work in the fields during the summer. Obviously times have changed today. Many people advocate doing away with this 'antiquated' system and moving to year round education. What exactly does this phrase mean? Generally, it means that schools will continue to operate on a 180 day system, yet they will spread these days out differently with shorter breaks between each term.
The most popular example of year round education is the 45-15 plan. This has students attending school 45 days and then getting three weeks (15 days) off. The normal breaks (holiday, spring) are still built into this calendar. Of course, many others ways exist to organize the calendar, including the 60-20 and the 90-30 plans. The other facet of implementation is the track. Single-track year round education involves an entire school using the same calendar and getting the same holidays off. Multiple-track year round education has groups of students attending school at different times with different vacations. Multi-tracking usually occurs because it is a way for school districts to save money.
Year round education is a very complex topic with many variables that must be considered, not the least of which is the motivation behind a school district's decision to change their current calendar.
Arguments for Year Round Education
- Students tend to forget a lot during the summer, and shorter vacations might increase retention rates.
- Schools that are not being used in the summer are inefficient.
- Short breaks can provide time for students to receive enrichment education.
- Remediation can occur when it is most needed during the school year.
- Students get bored during the long break of summer.
- It's easier to schedule vacations because not everyone wants to travel at the same time.
- Other countries around the world use this system.
- More students can be accommodated at one school through multi-tracking.
Arguments against Year Round Education
- Studies have been inconclusive to its academic benefits.
- Students are going to forget information whether they are out of school for three weeks or 10. Therefore, teachers will be performing four beginning of the year reviews instead of just one.
- Summer programs such as youth camps suffer.
- Student summer employment will be virtually impossible.
- Many schools are older and do not have air conditioning.
- Band and other extracurricular programs could be hurt because of problems scheduling out of school practices and competitions.
- If the entire school district does not go year round, parents could have students at different schools on different schedules.
- With multi-tracking, parents could have students at the same school on different schedules.
The studies comparing the year round to the traditional schedule are problematic because they are inconclusive. For one thing, it is difficult to isolate the year round calendar as the reason for any positive or negative results. Further, we have to question the agenda of the people performing the surveys. The fact is that the biggest gains were made in schools that were truly trying to improve the overall quality of education. Implementing the year round schedule was just one of their efforts to achieve this end. The question then becomes what part in any educational gains does the schedule take? As with any radical change, thorough studies must be made about its beneficial effects before implementation. If students, teachers, and parents are not supportive of the new schedule, it is bound to fail. Schools that choose to implement multi-tracking systems need to look at their motivations. If they are making their decisions based solely on funding they are quite possibly setting the system up for failure. Schools that are investigating year round education need to decide what they are trying to accomplish and whether a new calendar will move them further towards their goals.