Don't change school calendars because ...

School calendar fundamentals
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For an instructive read on what is driving ill-conceived and disruptive school reforms such as school calendar change read:
Why is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools? by Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian. 
The book can be ordered at:
http://www.heinemann.com
/shared/products/E00637.asp

 

 

It is absurd to suggest that children aren’t learning
during the summer. It’s a different type of learning,
which simply is not tested.

—Dr. Leo Wisenbender,
Los Angeles Unified Program and Evaluation Branch, 1994

BULLETIN: A comprehensive research paper  by the editor of SummerMatters is now posted on this website. The Politics & Marketing of Year-Round School was presented to the Florida Political Science Association in 2003.

Think HARD about the consequences of year-round school  because . . .summer matters to 

bulletChildhood growth & development
bulletFamily relationships & traditions
bulletLearning & enrichment opportunities
bulletThe economy of seasonal communities

Dear President Obama:
      
I hope you received AND read the letter  below that I  e-mailed http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/                 and then faxed  (202-456-2461) 
to your White House blog, where it is written:
  "President Obama is committed to creating the most open 
        and accessible administration in American history."
(I hope the 40,000-plus people who read this website each week will similarly write you about their concerns.)

I worked my heart out to get you elected!!
I still believe you are a good man with good intentions.  However, YOU ARE GETTING VERY BAD ADVICE  from those who have convinced you  school reform should include a longer school year that will place children across this nation on a year-round calendar. 

That approach has been tried and failed for more than 100 years. 

This website provides a portion of the research I have collected since 1992. In a forthcoming book, I go into great  detail, including the money motives behind this push that are at odds with the best interests of children and families. 

Please reverse your support for this idea, as you did recently on having veterans get health care from private insurance.  Our veterans deserve better and so do children and families. Please save our summers.
---Billee Bussard, editor, www.SummerMatters.com

March 11, 2009
To:  President Barack Obama and his education advisors

From: A Big FAN  of yours  who is losing confidence over your  school reform proposal

 

The Year-Round School Calendar Has Failed To Pass The Test For 100 Years

 

     As a Florida Democratic Party activist, as one who contributed much time and as much money as I could afford to the Obama campaign, and as an expert on school calendar issues (I have been studying this since 1992 and am about to finish a book on the subject),  I  IMPLORE President Obama to re-examine his support for a year-round school calendar. 
     As one who has spoken to literally thousands of parents from hundreds of communities across this nation who fought tooth and nail against school calendar tinkering,  I can tell you this is a "Third Rail" issue for politicians AND WILL COST THE PRESIDENT DEARLY IN PUBLIC SUPPORT.

     Parents and teachers go to war over this issue like nothing else I have observed in my 25-plus years as a journalist (I am now retired and devote my spare time to doing communications for the Duval County, FL, Democratic Party--the county that helped clinch Florida's electoral votes).
      I would be honored to send the President and his advisors a 52-page paper I presented to the Florida Political Science Association in 2003, when then-Gov. Jeb Bush was threatening year-round school. The paper outlines the failed history of school calendar change as an education reform approach. 
     Whoever is advising the President on calendar change as a school reform approach has failed to do the homework. It is an idea that has been tried and failed for more than 100 years. A partial list of  those places can be found on The REJECT LIST page of my website, www.SummerMatters.com, a website I launched to share a portion of my research. The website get thousands of hits each week. 
     Whoever told the President the traditional school calendar is an agrarian calendar didn't do the homework, either.  In fact, a year-round calendar is more like the agrarian calendar, according to scholarly studies of school calendars, which I discuss in my paper. I also point out the high costs for school districts in utility costs to air condition buildings---no small item in this age of unpredictable energy costs.
     Four years ago, I had to shelve the book I was writing on this subject to care for various family members who took ill.  Sadly, I now have time to finish the book because on December 22, I lost my husband of 41 years, who was also a longtime journalist and a dedicated Democrat. 
     What disgusts me most in this study of the year-round school calendar is federal funds designated for school improvement have been tapped by a clever cabal of consultants who have literally raked in millions over the last decade selling this idea to school districts. School calendar change as an education improvement approach may be the biggest  education boondoggle of the last two decades.
     Opposing school calendar change, on the other hand, is a costly enterprise.  It costs me hundreds of dollars every year to maintain my website.  I am not a consultant, just a concerned citizen.
    I fear this issue could be something of an Achilles Heel for President Obama.  Families draw the line in their support for school administrators and politicians when they try to steal the best months of the year for family time and learning experiences outside school walls.

     Certainly, the President's embrace of the year-round school calendar has caused me to wonder about the other advisors who surround him and shaken my confidence in his administration.  None of his advisors could possibly have spent as much time as I have examining this issue.  I doubt any have a 40-foot wall of research to back their support FOR calendar change as I have to back my argument AGAINST a year-round school calendar.

         Please restore my confidence by at least requesting in a reply to this note that I e-mail you a copy of my research paper and by spending some time looking at some of my research posted at www.SummerMatters.com.  I would also be happy to e-mail some of the chapters from my forthcoming book. 
      Please do me the favor of defusing the possibility of making that book a best-seller by admitting President Obama made a mistake in supporting the idea of a year-round school calendar.

     Most Sincerely,
     Billee Bussard
    16 Hopson Road
     Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
    Home Phone:  (904) 249-2468       e-mail:  bussardre@aol.com

 

P.S.:  Please ask CIA director Leon Panetta about the failed history of the year-round calendar in California.  When I interviewed him a few years back, he told me everyone is finally admitting it doesn’t improve education and costs more.

          __________________________________

Note: This Web site was launched in June 2001. It is updated with new information as time allows. If you need immediate assistance on school calendar issues, you can reach  Billee Bussard, editor of SummerMatters.com, at (904) 249-2468, or send a detailed e-mail about your needs to: bussardre@aol.com

    NEW!  A pamphlet, "Myth and Reality of School Calendar Change, is now posted on the TALKING POINTS page (Click TALKING POINTS button at left and scroll down to the very end of the page.) This is a valuable tool in conveying quickly the fallacy of school calendar change.

Be sure to see the post on the FLAWED RESEARCH page: 
School Calendars and Modern-Day Workforce Realities: Distortions by Fred Hess, American Enterprise Institute

Be sure to check the other pages on this site (click on buttons at left), particularly "The Reject List,"  "History and Hype," "Research Review" and "Important Studies."

FYI:  SummerMatters.com is in no way connected to or compensated by the tourism industry or any other special interest group. The information and research provided on these pages are offered as a public service by a journalist who has researched and monitored this issue for more than a decade.
 (Last updated March 19, 2009) 

IN MEMORIAM:  A great loss for those of us fighting to save summer is the passing of Debbie Smith of Orlando, who lost her long-fought battle with cancer Oct. 22, 2007.  Debbie Smith's research on year-round school printed in an Orlando homeowner's association newsletter in the early 1990s has been  instrumental in thwarting calendar change efforts nationwide.  Her story appears at the end of this page, part of a chapter in a book-in-progress by SummerMatters editor Billee Bussard, that will be dedicated to Debbie's  courageous and tireless efforts to save summer for families and children.

Shrinking summer robs  children 
of critical learning experiences

     When school districts impose calendar reforms that shrink summer vacation they rob children of learning experiences that are critical to healthy development.

    SummerMatters .com is part of a nationwide information network that provides research and up-to-date information on  school calendar reconfigurations  that come under a variety of labels such as:

bulletYear-round school
bulletContinuous Learning Calendar
bulletBalanced Calendar
bulletModified Calendar
bulletCollegiate Calendar
bulletEarly school start
bulletExtended school year

     Over the last three decades, calendar changes have been slipped into many communities with little or no discussion, often through incremental changes each year that push school start dates into mid-summer.

But mounting evidence against year-round school and its education detriments is forcing policy-makers to back away from school calendar change. This may explain the aggressive tone by a school calendar change agent in a speech at the annual convention (Feb. 5-9, 2005) of the National Association of Year-Round Education, a year-round school advocacy group. The NAYRE board member advises end-justifies-the-means approaches to force communities on a year-round calendar, including bait-and-switch tactics and pounding opponents hard. 

See the speech and commentary at:
http://susanohanian.org/show_commentary.php?id=316

The speaker, Dr. John Hodge Jones, recommends little children attend school on shifts, like factory workers, in an interview with a Tennessee newspaper. He is the same man who chaired a national study committee on time and learning which produced the federally funded Prisoner's of Time studies in 1994.  Curiously, Tennessee has been slow to adopt a calendar Jones has pushed, as has another prominent politician from that state, former Gov. Lamar Alexander, who as U.S. Secretary of Education for President Bush 41 promoted school calendar change.  But Tennessee residents have fiercely resisted, the latest opposition (December 2005) coming from the Nashville area.  

Williamson County parents opposed to the "balanced calendar" have launched an excellent website that is a good guide for other opposition groups.  
See: http://www.wcscalendar.com/
They also produced a button (see below) for parents to wear to go along with a campaign that emphasizes the  traditional school calendar is a pro-family calendar. The button can be purchased  at: www.Affordablebuttons.com or by calling (888) 603-0308.

California, which has been a barometer state for education trends and has led the nation in year-round school experiments, is returning to the traditional school calendar as quickly as possible.  See:
Trend turns toward traditional schedule 
by
Joe Tone, The Record
http://www.recordnet.com/daily/news/articles/071304-gn-7.php

There also has been a voter rebellion against  year-round school calendars in Texas,  which became the second largest year-round school state in the nation while George W. Bush was governor. Year-round school experiments were part of school reforms recommended by his father, President Bush 41, resulting in a wave of calendar experiments in the 1990s, which were also supported by Lamar Alexander, his education secretary. Multitrack calendars were recommended by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 to address a voter mandate for class-size reduction.

Year-round school was conspicuously absent from the 2004 Democratic Party Platform. The 2000 platform encouraged more experiments with schools of choice, charter schools and year-round schools. While charter schools and school choice remained in the 2004 platform, year-round school was dropped. 

A recent study by the Nevada Department of Education found children at year-round schools scored lower on high-stakes tests. The stop-and-start  year-round calendar not only breaks learning continuity, it actually robs children of instructional days, according to a Nevada Department of Education study. See: 

Year-round schools had fewer days for studying before tests
by Emily Richmond, LAS VEGAS SUN http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/lv-ed/2004/jul/23/517223063.html

   In the early 1990s, year-round school was touted as a way to break the “psychological barrier” of the long summer break and “pave the way for more days to be added on an incremental basis in the future,” according to authors of Year-Round Education: Restructuring Schools to complement a Changing Economy.  See: Southern Growth Policies Board (January 1992) “Year-Round Education: Restructuring Schools to complement a changing economy.” Research Triangle Park, N.C. p. 7.)

     A Winter 1999 issue of a newsletter by NAYRE, the year-round school advocacy group, notes that incremental moves of many school districts to earlier school start dates that shrink summer vacation to as few as 9 weeks are precursors of schools headed toward a year-round calendar.

     “Moving in the right direction, these schools will likely be entered in the NAYRE directory [of year-round schools] within the next 5 years.” (See: Year-Rounder, Winter 1999,National Association for Year-Round Education, p. 7.)

     Whether or not you have school-age children or grandchildren, you need to become informed about school calendar  reforms that shrink summer because they come with serious social and economic  consequences that  impact everyone, and especially those households where both parents work. And in this day and age of unstable oil prices, the extra costs of cooling classrooms in the dog days of summer significantly impacts school budgets. For example, an energy study released in January 2003  by the Oklahoma City School District found a later start date of just two weeks, from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2, could save the district $150,000 in utility costs. (See: The Oklahoman, July 7, 2003, It's back to school for nearly 1,000 city students, by Michael Bratcher.)

BE SURE TO  READ:
The Top 10 Reasons 
A Traditional School Calendar 
Works Best for America 

found at the end of this page


Education Turmoil & Inequities: For a good  idea of the education turmoil year-round school creates, and the education inequities it fosters read the expert witness testimony and the depositions in the Williams v. State of California case before the Superior Court of San Francisco
http://www.decentschools.com/whatsnew.php 

The state has agreed to phase out the multitrack calendar as part of its settlement in the lawsuit, which named the year-round calendar among the education detriments disproportionately imposed on minority children. For a summary of the settlement see:
Editorial Sacramento Bee 2004-08-23
http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/story/10480840p-11400181c.html

Economic Detriments: For a report on the detrimental economic impact of calendar change in one state see: http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/ssd/

For data on the economic importance of the  tourism industry to  the U.S. economy see: http://www.TourismandMore.com/). Also see a new report from the University of South Carolina. (see: Noteworthy)

For a good article on the importance of summer family activities on school achievement and performance see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51889-2002Jan15.html

For a glimpse of some of the allies of year-round education, many of them enemies of public education, see: http://www.educationindustry.org/links/

The National Association for Year-Round Education, the prime promoter of year-round school, is one of the preferential "links" on the Education Industry Association's page of "links"--on a list of  "Related Education/Political Organizations" that include private school, charter school and other groups that want public schools privatized. (Link was on the list as of Feb. 14, 2004.) Ask yourself why, of the multitude of education groups, NAYRE is singled out by the Education Industry Association.  Is it because damage year-round school does to public education results in parents placing children in private schools or charter schools? Board members of the Education Industry Association are heavy with those who hope to profit by dismantling public education and privatizing it.

     There are serious education consequences of school calendar change. A California grand jury noted in a report issued in late July 2001 a huge gap in test scores between  year-round schools and traditional calendar schools. It recommended the Los Angeles Unified School District investigate to see if the year-round calendar is to blame for low scores, as many principals suggested. 
(Click on What's New for details.)

     If you are new to this issue, commentaries on several of our  pages will bring you up to speed quickly. See:

bullet

Calendar Accountability: Put to the test, school calendar change fails a remedy for improving education. (See Article Below).

bullet

School calendar reforms are bad medicine 
(Click on Flawed Studies)

bullet

Keep education reform focus on quality instruction time. (Click on Extended Year).

     A  MUST-READ  on this website is the page labeled The Reject List (click on the page in the upper left corner). Evidence of the  widespread failure and dissatisfaction with calendar  reforms that shrink the school summer vacation is documented in an ever-expanding, state-by-state list of school districts that opted for a traditional calendar after  trying or considering the year-round calendar.  

     The thing year-round school promoters fear the most is people getting the facts about its track record.  They even recommend holding small informational meetings that will limit exposure to the detriments and dangers.  

     A calendar change proposal is often suddenly thrust upon a community during the most hectic times of the year for parents, such as around  Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter holidays, which makes it difficult to find time to react or to do research. 

                       **********************
The following excerpt from a paper  presented to the Florida Political Science Association March 2003  documents the strategy recommended by year-round school promoters to covert the school calendar.

YEAR-ROUND SCHOOL SUPPORTERS
FEAR PARENTS LEARNING  FACTS

By Billee Bussard
excerpt from 
The Politics and Marketing of Year-Round School

In their list of strategies for implementing year-round school, the National Association For Year-Round Education warns school district policymakers to limit informational meetings to small groups, which limits exposure to the negatives on the year-round calendar.

"We advise districts not to start out with a large meeting at the onset.  All it does is give a few people a large forum in which to voice their complaints," said the coordinator of the Florida's year-round school pilot program in Marion County, Florida. "If we had to do it over, we would not have held a large general meeting in the beginning and instead have held smaller group meetings. It was the worst thing we ever did."
(Nelson, A., Morell, D., Howard, G.N. (1993). Project LEAD: Year-Round Education: An organizational system which supports total quality Education. Office of  Organizational Development and Educational Leadership, Florida Department of Education.)

Valley View Superintendent Ken Hermansen attributes his series of small "kaffee klatches" and person-to-person contacts with the acceptance of  the year-round school proposal in the 1970s.   "It is noteworthy that the superintendent of schools accepted 60 invitations to talk with small neighborhood groups (in addition to service clubs and churches) over a period of 18 months to explain the year-round school program." 
(Hermansen, K.L., Gove, J. (1971). The year-round school: The 45-15 breakthrough. Hamden, CN: Linnet Books. )

Political strategies to gain public support for and to implement the year-round school concept were discussed at length by the year-round school "renaissance" writers of the 1970s as well as year-round school leaders in the 1990s.

In fact, a 6-page article in the 16-page fall 1993 quarterly newsletter of the National Association For Year-round Education, focused on the political strategy.  The article, "Making it Happen: How to Handle the Politics of Year-Round Education," was written by Patrick McDaniel, who was in the embarrassing position of seeing his own Albuquerque, New Mexico, school district cut a large segment of  its year-round schools as he served as NAYRE  president in 1993. (
McDaniel, P. (1993, fall).  Making it happen; How to handle the politics of year-round education. The Year-Rounder, San Diego, CA.)

McDaniel, as year-round school leaders before him, attempts to dismiss opposition to school calendar change as a simple matter of resistance to change. "The change in the school calendar that we are proposing…threatens the very structure of life for many people."   To counter that resistance, he suggests focusing on and marketing to the 50 percent of the people who typically are either ambivalent and/or neutral when change is proposed. McDaniel outlines an 11-point strategy for the smooth implementation of year-round school that might be interpreted this way:

---Select strong leaders to sell the idea. [Weed out the weak links.]
---Put early focus on district policymakers. [Sell the power structure before you sell the people.]
---Clarifying the rationale for community buy-in. [Identify and focus on the need/problem that calendar change will answer.]
---Borrow strategies used in political campaigns to win people over. "Be aware of various groups and their influence and gain their active cooperation."
---Develop a public relations strategy immediately.
---"Develop an implementation strategy…voluntary vs. mandatory, gradual vs. immediate implementation, total district or partial district, elementary, secondary or K-12"  and then stick with it.
---"Be aware of the dynamics of change…questions of pacing."
---Make sure your staff has bought in.  "One thing is clear: year-round education cannot be successful of the school and district staffs are undermining or sabotaging implementation efforts."
---Avoid making the claims that the year-round  "calendar is the be-all and end-all of education" even though we know it is. Emphasize, instead that "it is an instructional schedule that provides opportunities for continuous learning that can benefit students."
---Emphasize the potential of year-round education, and its compatibility with contemporary life.  "After all, if the nine-month calendar is so effective, why is it not used in business and industry or virtually anywhere else in the industrialized world," McDaniel says. [Or another way he might have said it: Why shouldn't raising kids and educating them be approached more like a business?]
---"Take the time to plan." [Or make sure you have everything in place---take 1 to 2 years doing it-so you won't get shot down.]

             **********************

BUSINESS SECTOR PUTS ON PRESSURE
FOR SCHOOL CALENDAR CHANGE

    
It is important to understand that the business community and the nation's powerbrokers, which are powerful influences over and fund BOTH political parties, are applying pressure for school calendar change to school boards, school superintendent, school administrators, principals and teachers across the nation--and especially the politicians who make policies for public schools. They provide funding for organizations that produce reports in favor of school calendar tinkering. Curiously, the most recent reports ignore the disastrous impact of the year-round calendar as provided in testimony in 2003 and 2004  from the Williams v. California lawsuit. 

     The Business Round Table, an organization of CEOs from the nation's largest corporations, has made a longer school year and school day part of its school reform agenda. 
For an instructive read on the role of the Business Round Table in school reforms damaging to families and children read: Why is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools? by Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian. The book can be ordered at:
http://www.heinemann.com/shared/products/E00637.asp


     Some see such a move as a means to provide a babysitting infrastructure in schools, which will make it easier for corporations to demand longer workdays and workweeks.  Corporations increase profits by working employees longer and harder because they avoid paying benefit packages of new hires. 

     American corporations already demand a longer work year and workweek than any of its industrial competitors. Did you know. . . ?

bullet

U.S. parents worked a longer workweek than counterparts in European industrial competitors? A mean of 80.1 hours for America’s parents in the early 1990s, compared to just 72.1 hours in Germany and 71.3 hours in the United Kingdom. (Jacobs, J.A., Gornick, J.C. (March 2001). Hours of Paid Work in Dual-Earner Couples: The U.S. in Cross-National Perspective. Earlier draft of this paper was the keynote address at the North Central Sociological Meeting, March 2000)

bulletBy 1997,  nearly 40 percent of Americans worked a 50-hour workweek? The workweek of the average salaried American (working 20 hours or more) jumped from 43 to 47 hours between 1977 and 1997. The numbers of those who put in 50 hours jumped from 24 to 37 percent between 1977 and 1997.  (Lardner, J. (Dec. 20, 1999). World-class Workaholics, U.S. News & World Report.)

     It just so happens that both The Business Round Table and the National Council on Year-Round Education, forerunner group of the National Association for Year-Round Education, were established in 1972.  Could it be that year-round school is an incremental move toward longer workweeks for all Americans?

     For insight on how the business sector uses political leaders to move the school calendar change agenda read "The Year-Round Mess" at: http://www.substancenews.com/Mambo/content/view/294/83/  The story illustrates the callous disregard of damning evidence against school calendar change by Chicago Mayor Daley, a Democrat,  who has been given ultimate authority over the operation of schools. Daley is pushing for some 140 Chicago schools  that largely serve children of color to a multitrack calendar under the guise of improving school performance and as necessary for Americans to be able to compete in a global economy. His proposal ignores the preponderance of evidence presented in the Williams v. California lawsuit against  the multitrack calendar  in the Los Angeles, which is returning to a traditional school calendar as new schools are built. 

After examining the facts and information on the following pages, which have been compiled from  a decade of research by a veteran journalist, we urge you to contact your community, education and business leaders and tell them:

SummerMatters 
        Don't mess with the school calendar

Calendar Accountability
Put to the test, school calendar change 
fails as a remedy for improving education

Remarkably, at a time when  reformers  were clamoring for performance accountability in U.S.  schools,  the claims of pitchmen for year-round calendars and a longer school year went largely unchallenged in the 30 years prior to the new millennium.

That slowly began to change as  word of unfilled promises of school calendar experiments spread via the Internet on dozens of   Web sites  produced between 1995 and 2001 by grassroots  opposition groups and others. 

Held to the same proof of performance  required  of schools, students and educators today, these calendar reforms clearly  flunk three parts of a school calendar accountability  test. (Also see Flawed Studies.)

Accountability Test: Part I
The year-round school research record

There  is a conspicuous absence of credible studies and data to show reconfiguring the school year makes any significant difference in education outcomes. After 100 years of calendar experiments in this nation, there should be reams of good data to show year-round school is academically beneficial. It doesn't exist. Scholarly research reviews   find that, at best, year-round school is an inert intervention.

Gene Glass, education researcher at Arizona State University, has this to say about the research in a January 2002 report on education reform policies:

"Not all studies have failed to find achievement advantages for the year-round calendar. Those that do claim advantages, however, stem disproportionately from an advocacy organization that has grown up around this issue: the National Association for Year-Round Education (www.nayre.org/). (Institutional memberships range from $350 to $750 per year depending on the number of students that a school or school district has enrolled in year-round education.) NAYRE publishes its own research reports, and avoids established peer-reviewed scholarly journals; copies of research reports outlining the benefits of the year-round calendar sell for about $30. 'Negative' studies have tended to come from researchers working in universities."
http://www.asu.edu/educ/epsl/EPRU/documents/EPRU%202002-101/epru-2002-101.ht
m


Accountability Test: Part II
Test scores and test score comparisons

While test scores are only one measure of performance and learning, and often not a reliable one, nevertheless test scores do  provide a telling pattern of low performance in those states that were early to embrace the year-round calendar.  

States with the largest and longest-running year-round school programs  are found at the bottom of the performance rankings on national tests. In fact, three of the five states with the largest enrollments of year-round students dominate the list of poorest performers in the  1998 NAEP Reading Exam (National Assessment for Education Progress) for fourth-graders.

A list of 1998 NAEP test scores in the same  Education Week special report (2001) shows California, the state with the largest number of children in year-round schools (some 1.3 million or 62 percent of the nation's total in the 2000-2001 school year), ranks fifth from the bottom in eighth-grade reading.

Strong evidence that changing the school calendar and adding more days to the school year is a futile approach is also found in a recent  North Carolina Department of Education  comparison of test scores.

When the North Carolina Department of Education, Division of Accountability Services, did a comprehensive analysis  of 345,000 test scores of traditional calendar and year-round students, it found year-round calendar students, even though they had more classroom instructional time because of intersessions, had no academic advantage.

Accountability Test: Part III
Returns on investment in year-round schools 

Year-round schools cost taxpayers considerably more in: 

1)  higher utility bills to cool classrooms in summer
2)  added administrative costs and for wear and tear on buildings
3) added  costs for additional instructional days from  remediation sessions that occur during frequent vacation breaks throughout the year.
4) added costs for administration salaries and support staff.

The findings in the North Carolina study, the largest and most credible comparison of the effects of calendar change to date, cast doubt on the value of spending money for year-round school "intersessions."  North Carolina made additional instructional days mandatory in a majority of its year-round schools. But the test scores show that spending more money for more classroom seat time with more of the same kind of instruction clearly is not the way to improve education.

Diminishing Returns of Calendar Reforms
Interventions are  too little, too late

There is also growing evidence of diminishing returns for reconfigured school years that force children to attend  school more days either in summer sessions or the  year-round school remediation intersessions.

According to evidence presented in a recent  California lawsuit over education inequities (the year-round calendar is cited among them): "Experts have noted that significant reductions in reading speed and comprehension and mathematical skills occur when students are exposed to temperatures above 74 degrees." 
(see: www.aclunc.org/students/ca-school-complaint.html)

Dismal statistics on the success rate of summer school programs in Chicago also show that more seat time does not equate with learning. Studies show there was a high rate of failure for those Chicago children forced to go to summer school again after repeating the same grade a second time. Such discouraging figures prompted a re-examination of policies on both early school start dates and retention policies. In winter 2001, Chicago school officials  announced a post-Labor Day school opening date for fall 2001, responding also to polling data and a public backlash the previous year against shorter summer vacations and a school opening date of Aug. 22. 

The evidence is clear that remediation attempts through year-round school  intersessions or in summer school programs, weeks or months after children fall behind, are too little too late. When children fall behind they need immediate assistance. Better intervention investments are after-school programs, special pullout sessions during the school day or week or even Saturday classes. 


So what is the answer to better schools? 

More and more schools are finding the way to improve school is to focus on  the  quality of time  students spend in the classroom. 

That 's what worked in the  Hutto, Texas, Independent School District, where the traditional school year has been trimmed from 180 days to as few as 165. 

Hutto test scores have improved or remained stable since 1992, when the Texas school district shifted funds and focus to teacher training, new instructional methods and efficiency of classroom operations. Today, the district is a model for the state, said  Ben Carson, assistant superintendent of schools who oversees instruction.

Hutto's experience confirms the findings in  
"Is It Just a Matter of Time?"  a report produced in 1998 for the U.S. Department of Education.

"Simply adding time to the school year or day would not likely produce large scale gains in student achievement. What research studies repeatedly find is that in education, quality is the key to making time matter. 

"Of particular importance is providing curriculum and instruction geared to the needs and abilities of students, engaging them so they will return day after day, continuing to build on what they have learned. In other words, educators must-to the greatest extent possible-make every hour count."

Calendar Health and Safety Issues

Of equal concern to communities looking at switching to a year-round calendar are health and safety issues for their children. 

In the  fall of 2000, Fresno, Calif., parents presented the school board research-based information to show sending kids to school in summer may have  long-term health consequences on  young, still-developing lungs.

The swelling numbers of latchkey kids created by a year-round calendar also pose additional health and safety hazards for children. The year-round calendar with its frequent breaks creates serious child care problems for working parents. It swells the numbers of children left at home alone.  Unsupervised time is the breeding ground for juvenile crime, drug experimentation and teenage pregnancy.

Officials who monitor gang activity in Los Angeles, which has some of the nation's worst gang problems,  have told us you can draw a  parallel line between the growth of year-round schools and the growth of gangs there.

Proponents of year-round school and other school  calendar reforms ignore the important role a long summer vacation plays in a child's life. Summer matters to a child's  growth and development, to strengthening  family relationships,  to opportunity for  learning and enrichment experiences available outside the classroom walls. There are even lessons to be learned from coping with boredom.

Gerald Bracey, a columnist who reviews education research for Kappan Magazine, provides perspective on the important role family life and summer activities play in school performance. In a Jan. 16, 2002 op-ed column in The Washington Post he writes:  

The researchers, Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle and Linda Olson of the Johns Hopkins University, are quick to point out that what poor kids need is not necessarily more school: "We found that better off children in the [study] more often went to city and state parks, fairs, or carnivals and took day or overnight trips. They also took swimming, dance, and music lessons; visited local parks, museums, science centers and zoos; and more often went to the library in summer." They also were more likely to participate in organized sports and in more types of sports.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51889-2002Jan15.html

Dr. Leo Wisenbender of the Los Angeles Unified Program and Evaluation Branch sums it well: 

"It is absurd to suggest that children aren’t learning during the summer. It’s a different type of learning, which simply is not tested."

(Copy the Top 10 Reasons A Traditional Calendar Works Best, and turn it into a pamphlet to distribute in your district.)

Top 10 Reasons
A Traditional Calendar
Works Best for America


By Billee Bussard,
editor, www.SummerMatters.com


Yes, the traditional school calendar is flawed and imperfect.

So is the year-round school calendar. 

All things considered, the traditional school calendar works best for America because:

1. The traditional calendar delivers the  "best  educational bang for the buck."

When economic push comes to shove, school districts have concluded the traditional school calendar is still the best educational bang for the buck.

Proof is found in 100 years of school board decisions to abandon the year-round school movement. One list  of school districts that have rejected year-round school now stretches 40 feet (Click on the "Reject List" found at www.SummerMatters.com).

The years leading up to the Great Depression marked the end of an earlier year-round school heyday, when school districts were forced to closely examine the costs and benefits of all school programs and year-round schools were cut. 

Similarly, it was another economic downturn in the 1970s that led school boards across the nation to scrutinize year-round school results and ultimately the decisions to discontinue them.  The year-round school movement nearly died in the 1970s. By 1980, the California-based year-round school advocacy group that had been promoting the idea for a decade "was . . .a faltering, broken organization," the executive director acknowledged in a 1998 annual report.     By 1980, the much-touted, decade-long year-round school experiment in the Valley View, Ill.,  school district, which helped revive the year-round school movement,   had also fallen out of favor and was subsequently dropped, costs and lackluster academic outcomes cited.   

2. The traditional calendar is the most practical instructional approach.

The typical 180-day traditional school year maximizes learning continuity--blocks of uninterrupted instructional time--that are vital to real learning.

The year-round calendar with its frequent breaks dispersed throughout the year is disruptive to this learning process. Researchers on human memory, like Randall Engle, a Georgia Tech psychologist, found most learning loss occurs within the first three weeks of a lesson.  So the more frequent breaks of a year-round calendar maximizes forgetting and requires more review time, which robs instruction days from the school year.

The year-round calendar's 2- to 3-week remediation sessions held during school vacation time are too little too late for the children who fell behind 9 weeks earlier. 

3. The traditional calendar enables children to perform best on tests.

The largest test score comparison to date by Bradley McMillen of the North Carolina Department of Education found no advantage for year-round school students in the 340,000 North Carolina student scores analyzed.   While credible studies like McMillen's are few and far between, an admission even year-round school proponents make, a lot of data is available on the declining or lackluster performances in year-round schools. 

Consider the following:
· Alabama Scores: An analysis of three years of Stanford 9 tests scores (1999-2001) in 6 Alabama districts that implemented year-round in ALL schools, found across the board declines or stagnant scores in nearly every grade. The scores of these single-track year-round schools were significantly lower than traditional calendar school districts of like size with like socio-economic demographics. 
· Grand Jury Report: A Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury report issued July 2001 recommended an investigation to determine if the year-round calendar is responsible for the dramatic test score gaps between traditional and year-round schools. 
· California Lawsuit: A California lawsuit cites the year-round calendar among the education detriments and  inequities disproportionately imposed on minority and low income children in schools whose test scores are significantly lower than traditional calendar schools. A study of multi-track year-round school test scores by Ross Mitchell, presented as evidence in that case, shows the best test scores come from the track most like the traditional school year and the worst scores from the track most like the so-called "educational" single track calendar,  that forces children to attend school in the heat of the summer.
· SAT Score Declines:  Many school districts note testing complications and deficits for college-bound students using a year-round calendar.  A recent example is found in Georgia, where the average SAT scores in Trion City High School plunged after two full years on a year-round calendar, from 1008 to 951 and then 930-a drop of 78 points in two years. 
See: http://www.geocities.com/floydcountysos/ 

Research psychologist Chris Newland of Auburn University, who did a review of the year-round school research as a parent concerned about the educational impact on his own children, aptly summed year-round school is an "inert" intervention.


4.  The traditional calendar best serves the health and safety interests of America's children.

Among the many reasons:

· Childcare: The long break of a traditional school year makes it easier for working parents to find affordable and reliable childcare, many communities report. The ranks of latchkey kids rise with a year-round calendar, providing a breeding ground for juvenile crime, drug problems, gang activity and teenage pregnancy.
· Summer Heat:  Children forced to go to school during the harshest days of summer, when the air quality becomes unbearable, are put at serious risk for long term health problems, according to data presented to the Fresno, California, school district by a concerned parent group. The parents provided research from the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District, Environmental Protection Agency, the National Weather Service and the American Lung Association showing the long-term health risks of sending children to school when  ozone levels are dangerously high during summer heat. 
· Learning Environment: Hot classrooms make for poor learning environments, especially for those children with asthma and allergies. Though many of the nation's schools are air-conditioned, equipment failures and repairs or power company brownouts or blackouts leave many classrooms uncomfortably hot.

5. The traditional calendar accommodates longstanding  cultural and community experiences.

Summertime cultural programs have become part of the fabric of our society.  Vacation Bible schools, sports and other recreational programs, specialty camps for the arts and music are summer experiences that help children establish roots that strengthen the community. Many of these summer experiences are life-changing, opening career paths or providing direction for young lives.

6. The traditional calendar provides a wide window of opportunity for family time together.

The traditional calendar's 11- to 12-week vacation break makes it easier to reconnect with family members close to home or in other states. The longer break gives parents, especially those in families where both parents must work, a wider range of possibilities to schedule family time and learning experiences. In small communities with just a few major employers, arranging a summer vacation becomes more difficult when school vacation time is cut in half.

7. The traditional calendar offers time for life-changing employment and learning opportunities for our youth.

Summer jobs and summer internships expose a good segment of the nation's youth to the world of work and provides them with life-shaping skills, such as managing time and money. Summer work experiences established a career path for many of the successful  business entrepreneurs interviewed in the New York Times Best-seller, The Millionaire Mind. The long summer break opens the door to opportunity, while a year-round calendar slams it shut.

8. Traditional school calendars serve a significant sector of our  economy.

Summer-related industries geared to family vacation time are a significant segment of the nation's economy, providing both full-time and part time jobs for many Americans. The wide range of industries impacted by shrinking school vacations include manufacturers of boats and boating equipment, suppliers of food and equipment for hotdog stands and hotels, gasoline stations, auto repair shops and clothing manufacturers. 

A Texas comptroller's office released a study in 2000 showing early school start dates which shorten the summer tourist season cost the state's tourist-related industries an estimated $332 million a year.  

When an outside force impacts a vital segment of our economy, as terrorism had done to the travel and tourism industry, we call it treason.

9. The traditional calendar  best serves the educational needs of teachers.

The long summer break affords has enabled teachers to attend classes required for teacher certification or expand other skills that enrich classrooms.

10. The traditional calendar addresses student and teacher burnout.

Long summer breaks provide the downtime children and teachers need to start a new school year reinvigorated and ready to learn. A frequent complaint cited in school districts where year-round school was tried and abandoned was the burnout factor caused by the year-round calendar.

Billee Bussard,  a veteran Florida journalist, is co-author of Year-Round Education: Lessons Learned the Hard Way, and is editor of a website, www.SummerMatters.com, that posts information on the detriments of school calendar change.  Her decade of research on year-round school began in 1992 as an editorial writer for The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.  The  mother of two is finishing a second book on the year-round school movement, detailing the politics and money motives behind the  movement. One of the chapters in the book is about ordinary people who stood up against the powerful interests intent on shrinking summer breaks for schoolchildren. An excerpt from that book, about the late Debbie Smith, follows.

Debbie Smith

About Debbie Smith

       Debbie Smith  got involved with the year-round school issue as Education Committee Chairman of the Orange County Homeowners Association, a politically active group representing some 20,000 Orlando area property owners. She agreed to chair the committee in 1989, the year her husband Jeff became association president and her daughter Amanda, their only child, was a first-grader at Dr. Phillips Elementary, which was slated to go on a year-round calendar. Her research and subsequent reports led the homeowners group to pass a resolution Nov. 19, 1991 calling for the school board to return three pilot year-round schools to a traditional calendar as soon as possible and to not expand the calendar in other Orange County schools. Orange County school officials were pushing to make all 85 elementary schools year-round by 1995.

 

The homeowners  “Resolution Opposing Year-Round School” was a direct slap against 56-year-old Dee Parsons, who sat in 1992 as chairman of the Orange County School Board. It was none other than Parsons who in 1985 initiated efforts to switch the district’s calendar. Parsons, a Republican, was first elected to the school board in 1984, just a year after Republican President Ronald Reagan’s education secretary released A Nation At Risk, which called for drastic school reform, including a longer school year, as a means to compete in a global marketplace. A year after Parsons joined the school board, the National Governors Association, headed by Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, issued a report with a recommended list of education reforms that included all schools switch to a year-round calendar within a few years. Much was at stake politically for Parsons, who by then had positioned himself among Florida’s year-round school leaders determined to make Central Florida, and the Orange County school district specifically, a showcase for calendar reform.

 

The National Association FOR Year-Round Education had, in fact, staked out Florida to begin an east coast expansion, with central Florida as a major focal point.  Florida, in fact, had received federal money during the Bush (41) administration for educational leadership that set up a statewide network of school reform change agents poised to work for calendar reform.  “Project Lead” money also paid for a 134-page monograph published in 1993 singing praises of Florida’s year-round calendar efforts that was written and distributed nationwide precisely as the Florida pilot program was imploding because of high costs, poor testing outcomes and parent dissatisfaction. That fact was left out of the monograph.

 

By the 1992-93 school year, 32 of Florida’s 50 year-round schools were in  six central Florida counties--Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia.  In 1990, Orange County placed three schools on a multitrack year-round calendar. Beginning in school year 1993-94, half of Orange County’s 85 elementary schools and a third of Seminole elementary and middle schools were scheduled to be on a year-round calendar, with the goal to place all elementaries and some middle schools in both districts on it by 1995.

 

The process had been underway for years.  NAYRE first sent its operatives to lobby influential, business and political leaders and state officials.  In 1987, NAYRE kingpins addressed the Florida Committee of 100, and shortly thereafter Florida TaxWatch, a conservative watchdog group, signed onto year-round school.  The first conference of the Florida Association for Year-round Education  (FAYRE, Inc.), supported by a grant from the Florida Department of Education, was held Oct. 28-29 1990, in Orlando.

 

During the early1990s, two Florida year-round school change agents would reign as president of NAYRE:  One was R.J. “Skip” Archibald, who as an elected (1984) school superintendent in Marion County made his school district Florida’s pilot for year-round education in 1987, a year after the National Governors embraced calendar change.

 

Archibald’s Marion County School District is 60 miles northwest of Orange County. He presided as President of the Florida Association of Year-Round Schools at its first convention in 1990. In NAYRE’s annual directory of year-round schools for the 1992-93, Archibald, then president, is identified as Chief Executive Officer, Cooperative Education Extension System of Florida, University of North Florida. Florida Education Secretary Betty Castor created the job for him after Archibald decided to NOT seek re-election for school superintendent in 1992, and after he was turned down in April 1992 for the appointed post of Seminole County school superintendent.

 

“It cost Marion County about $750,000 more a year to operate a multitrack school instead of a traditional calendar,” said John Smith, who succeeded Archibald.

 

The other NAYRE president from Florida was L. Diane Locker, Orange County year-round school coordinator, who presided over the group in school year 1995-96.  NAYRE convention-goers from all over the country got instructions from her on the  “The Politics and Planning” for a year-round school calendar.

 

Postings about year-round school on the Prodigy bulletin board, a relatively new computer information exchange service launched in 1987, did not come to Debbie’s attention until after she had written reports for the homeowners group.  Prodigy was to become a popular and effective source of information on school calendar developments, providing a nationwide hookup to parents and educators engaged in calendar fights.  A Christmas gift from her husband in 1992 was, in fact, the Prodigy service, which Debbie used to continue following year-round school developments. ....

 

Ironically, when Debbie showed up at her first school board meeting in 1989 to do research for the homeowners group, she was inclined to believe an all-year school year might be a good idea. She had a background in education, having graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in home economics education. But her perspective quickly changed to doubt after listening to presentations by groups of parents at that meeting who, after doing their homework on year-round school organized in opposition to the pilot programs at three Orlando schools: Aloma, Palm Lake and Tangelo Park. Research by these parents provided a stark contrast to the mostly positive picture of the multitrack calendar painted in reports generated by school officials.

 

 Debbie spent thousands of hours in libraries looking at professional journals and other publications. She also spent countless hours attending informational and school board meetings on year-round school and double-checking information supplied by the Orange County school administration. Her spare bedroom was soon overflowing with piles of news clips, research reports and other documents. Pulling facts and figures from the mounds of research, she wrote with great clarity on the dangers and detriments of calendar change to unnerve the Orange County calendar change forces

 

Haunting Facts on  ‘Phantom’ Schools

 

Debbie Smith determined from her research that one of the biggest misrepresentations on calendar change benefits was the promised savings from  “phantom” schools.  These are the bricks and mortar schools that the district wouldn’t have to build by using a multitrack calendar to expand capacity in existing school buildings. Orange County school officials estimated savings of nearly $64 million over three years every time a year-round calendar was used to avoid construction of 9  “phantom” schools at construction costs of about  $7 million a piece plus miscellaneous expenses. It’s false economics, she concluded.

 

“These large projected savings—$64 million—have the effect of dazzling the mind and preventing closer evaluation,” Debbie would write later in the OCHA News, the homeowners association newsletter.

 

“Because YRS cost so much more to operate yearly, if you multiply the costs out over a five- or six-year period you could afford to build and operate the so-called ‘phantom school.’ At the end of this period you would have purchased the land and building for the same money, rather than just having money paid out in increased operating costs with nothing tangible to show for it.”

 

Debbie’s detailed explanation of the problems with the year-round calendar concept appeared in a special 9-page February 1992 edition of OCHA News. The special issue was published in response to a letter Dee Parson’s sent to the homeowners group charging Debbie’s research and presentations as biased and a misrepresentation of fact.  [Parson’s letter and excerpts from Debbie’s rebuttal are provided in the book] Debbie’s article in the OCHA News begins:

      “Mr. Parsons’ letter . . . suggests that I have only presented ‘biased’ information to [OCHA] membership. I find this a particularly ironic accusation as I have attended many YRS presentations…by Orange Counting Public School staff and other supporters of YRS and have never attended one where there was a true pro/con discussion of the issues. These have only been what they choose to call ‘information sessions’ where administration staff have tied to ‘sell’ this program to the public. . .

      “As to who is biased in presenting information…I quote from The Year-Round Education Task Force Report, dated 11/12/91:

       “The concept of year-round education was brought to the attention of the Orange County school system staff as early as 1985 when School Board member Dee Parsons suggested that the district consider it as an alternative which might address the growing student population in Orange County. A district objective was developed to review the results of legislative efforts. . . relative to year-round schools and report on implications for Orange County by June 30, 1987.

      “Mr. Parsons was one of the first and remains one of the strongest proponents of the YRS program, but that does not necessarily mean he is right.  Especially in light of more recent information that I have reviewed from school districts which have operated these programs for a number of years. I prefer to think of our resolution as a list of serious concerns rather than biased information.”

 

Debbie’s rebuttal concludes with the following points:

1.      Money that should be going to educating children in the classroom and into teachers’ salaries is going instead into an expensive new scheduling system.

2.      If you have read this entire special YRS newsletter then you should be questioning the statement by Mr. Parsons that YRS is the only significant alternative to solving space problems.  

          San Diego City Schools, the home base of the NAYRE, now has strict guidelines for putting schools on multitrack.  They have found portables to be much cheaper. They are also putting restrictions on schools going single track because they do their student counts daily and so many children are absent during the summer, it is costing them too much money.  Diane Fardig’s report [for Orange County] states that parents and students were very happy with intercessions at the Tangelo Park (YRS pilot).  But I found it interesting that enrollment went down with each succeeding intercession, the lowest enrollment being during the summer.  There was a difference of almost 100 children.

1.      YRS does not decrease class size.  You have five third grades on traditional and you’ll have five third-grades on YRS.  They just won’t be in school at the same time.  The only way to reduce class size is to hire more teachers.

2.      There is great debate over the issue of whether YRS actually improves academics.

3.      It is my hope that the next time you attend a YRS “information session,” that you will now be able to listen with a whole new level of knowledge.

If you agree that there is merit to our concerns, then perhaps you will consider taking the next step in the process and let your school board members know that you are concerned. When they see empty auditorium seats, and don’t receive phone calls on an issue, they assume everything is fine and you are happy with their decisions.

        A copy of Dee Parsons’ letter also was submitted and printed as Letter to the Editor in the Feb. 6, 1992 issue of The West Orange Times. The paper printed Smith’s rebuttal letter Feb. 27, 1992. 

 

Dee Parsons’ attempt to discredit Debbie Smith followed her effective presentations on the detriments of calendar change in surrounding counties.

 

In mid-November 1991, she was asked by a parent to speak to the Osceola County School Board. Debbie’s Osceola presentation fell a week before she was scheduled to give the same talk at a hearing of the Orange County school board on whether to expand the year-round calendar to ALL schools by 1995. Debbie believes the Orange County hearing was deliberately scheduled the week of Thanksgiving when many families that otherwise might have attended the meeting were busy with company or headed out of town. And so turnout was low at the school calendar change hearing.

 

    Her willingness to help other districts may have undermined efforts in her own. The  Orange County school board voted to expand YRS to 60 schools after her abbreviated presentation at the hearing.  She explained the situation in the OCHA News:

 

     “Through a long series of events, I was contacted by a parent in Osceola County who was upset because the school board was voting to expand [the year-round calendar] after only a couple of months into their pilot year (sound familiar?).  She wanted to know if I had any information I could share with her.  I explained that I happened to have these packets [of information] made up [for the Nov. 26 presentation to the Orange County School Board] and I would be glad to bring them down and present this information to the Osceola County School Board.

      “The Osceola School Board allowed me time to present my information, asking numerous questions. After listening to me and concerned parents from their county, they voted that night four to one to not expand its

program, to form a committee to do further research on the issue, and to put YRS on the ballot in March (later changed to November) for a non-binding vote.  “This was a major accomplishment as it is the first time I know of that parents and property owners in any county of Florida have ever had a chance to vote on YRS.

      “The only problem with doing this presentation in Osceola was that I was sure that much of the information that I discussed that evening would prejudice my ability to do the same presentation the next week in Orange County.

      “Sadly, I was right.  On the evening before the public hearing in Orange County, I received a call from the school board secretary informing me that Mr. Parsons (newly elected as school board chairperson) had decided to limit individual presentations from the public to five-minute intervals.  I was told that this was going to be strictly enforced.

      “You should know that under Mr. Bill Barnes, the immediate past chair for the school board, discussion was allowed to continue as long as new information was being presented or as long as it took to thoroughly cover an issue.  This is the premise I used in putting these  [information] packets together.  I had assumed that my complete packet of information opposing YRS would be heard and, since so much of my information was current, here was a good chance that the school board members would not have had this kind of input from anyone else.

      “At the beginning of my presentation, I explained that I wanted to read my resolution into the record and hopefully what they heard in the resolution would be of such a nature as to have them waive the five-minute rule and let me present the back-up [information in the] packet. 

      “Mr. Drew Thomas, school board attorney, was keeping time and as I finished the first page of the resolution, he announced that 51/2 minutes had elapsed.  I attempted to get my time extended but was curtly informed that I had to sit down. 

      “I then informed Mr. Parsons that he should be aware of the fact that this same packet of information had been presented in Osceola County the week before and based on the information therein along with citizen concerns had caused them to agree to put the issue on the ballot for a vote.  I was extremely disappointed that our school board was unwilling to consider my information, but under their rules I had to retire the podium.

      “Of the literally thousands of people who could and should, have been

at this hearing, there were only five people who spoke to the resolution and a handful more in attendance.  It is for this reason that I have gone into such detail in giving you this summary of events surrounding the hearing to consider input before voting to expand YRS into every elementary school in Orange County by 1995.”

 

This account in the OCHA News, along with the resolution and Debbie’s lengthy rebuttal to the school board’s arguments for year-round calendar, was later circulated nationwide and proved to be dynamite in blowing apart efforts of school calendar change agents elsewhere. It helped prepare parents and educators there for the year-round calendar propaganda war and the nasty political maneuvering that often accompanies it.  As a journalist trying to assess whether year-round school had merit, it was an instructive read. It also provided a basis for comparison of stories from other communities where the arguments and the political maneuverings for calendar change were eerily similar.

 

NAYRE’s Orange County operatives won the short-term battle, but it was a costly victory because it provided the resolve for Debbie and other Orange County parents to assist parents across the nation with information that stopped similar efforts dead in their tracks.

 

Debbie's closing words in the OCHA Newsletter proved to be prophetic:

 

“If we don’t do something, in less than a few years we will be in the same position as Marion County, Fla.  The YRS programs will ultimately fail after the public has had to actually live with the YRS calendar multitracking for 3-4 years.  School board and administration staff responsible for bringing YRS to the district will loose their jobs and most importantly, in this time of tight budgets, public funds will have been wasted and additional funds will be required to dismantle the program and return to a traditional calendar.”

 

Orange County returned to a traditional calendar in school year in 1995-96.  To my knowledge, there is no final analysis of what this experiment cost.  Orange County Superintendent James Schott, in charge when the mechanisms for converting to a year-round calendar were put in place, would leave to become director of an Orlando arts group.

 

Locker would move to another state and take an administrative job in education.  

Marion County School Superintendent Archibald would become an unsuccessful candidate for Superintendent of Seminole County but land a cushy job that paid $100,000--a job created for him by Florida Education Secretary Betty Castor, a year-round school proponent. [Details in a later chapter.]

 

Both Archibald and Locker would continue as year-round consultants, commanding as much as $2,000 a day, and would continue to be participants and presenters at NAYRE conventions.

 

Debbie Smith was paid exactly NOTHING for the research she did for the homeowners group.

 

In summer 1992, just a few months after the Orange County School Board voted to put some 60 schools on a year-round calendar, Debbie would be diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease AND breast cancer. Now needing all the energy she could must for the fight of her life, Debbie bowed out of the Orange County fray for the time being, but between chemo therapy and doctor appointments, she continued to research the issue and help people from all over the state and the country who called needing calendar research. She was confident the eventual undoing of year-round school would be its expansion  efforts because experiences in other communities had shown the more parents, children and educators who experience the calendar, the louder the noise becomes against it and the greater pressure to end it.

 

While recovering from her illnesses in the early 1990s, she became something of a stealth force in Florida’s calendar wars. She quietly assisted Florida groups around the state who found the year-round school pitchmen on their doorsteps. She alerted a group of activists to a  state-level school facilities advisory committee meeting held in Orlando the day before Thanksgiving in which critical decisions on the year-round calendar were up for a vote. To  the surprise of the committee members, which included lawyers from high-profile law firms and construction companies, more than a dozen activist showed up armed with facts and figures that swayed a final recommendation by the committee to back away from using a year-round calendar in the state’s master plan for Florida school facilities. [More on this in a later chapter.]

 

Debbie also alerted a network of activists to a little-known  Legislative hearing on year-round school in Orlando, which filled an auditorium with some 400 people, most of them opponents of year-round school. The turnout was all the more remarkable because so many who had come from all corners of the state had to drive through high winds and torrential rains of  a tropical storm  that swept the state that day. The high turnout of angry parents and educators forced lawmakers to keep a hearing expected to last from 7 to 9 p.m. going until nearly midnight and proved to be a setback for more legislation to encourage a move to a year-round calendar.

 

Along the way, Debbie made many new friends from all over the state and the country. They were liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, agnostics as well as Christian-right activists.  Debbie also became part of the NOYRE network, a by-invitation-only advisory and information  group founded by Wes Walker, an Arizona father of  7. NOYRE moderator is Rodger Holtin, who got involved with the year-round school issue as a father of school-age children when he lived in Arkansas.   Holtin's interest in this issue, as with Debbie and countless others, continued even after his children graduated.    What triggers this on-going interest is losing the freedom to have time to learn outside school walls, which is very much dependent upon the time provided by a traditional school calendar.