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Recent studies reveal 
education deficits of YRS

N. Carolina study finds no academic advantages; 
California study finds  inequities in multi-track

 

On the following pages are brief summaries with talking points on  two recent year-round school evaluation studies, some of the most comprehensive to date. They offer strong evidence that:

bullet The year-round calendar, whether multi-track or single track, offers no academic advantage over the traditional school calendar.
bulletThe multi-track year-round calendar creates education inequities across tracks and segregates by socio-economic, ethnic and racial categories.

Some of the same findings in the California study are  cited in a lawsuit over education equities in which the plaintiffs claim the multi-track year-round calendar is "academically damaging."  For more information see a press release by the Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund. 

Page last updated June 22, 2001

Large study finds YR Schools
fail test of academic superiority

345,000 test scores examined

By Billee Bussard
   SummerMatters!! Editor

 A North Carolina Department of Education study of reading and math test scores of  more than  345,000  students, grades three through eight,  found achievement in year-round schools was no greater than in traditional calendar schools and a differential in scores of disadvantaged children that was “not of practical significance.”

The study, “A Statewide Evaluation of Academic Achievement in Year-Round Schools,”by Bradely J. McMillen of the Division of Accountability Services, is the largest comparison of the effects of  school calendar change in the 100-year history of year-round school experiments in the United States. I

It is also one of the most thorough and credible studies on the year-round

calendar, say those who follow the school calendar debate.T Most year-round calendar performance studies have been discounted by academic research because of flawed methodology.

YR No Better

The study of reading and math test scores of more than 345,000 students found year-round schools had no academic advantage over traditional calendar schools.

"Most studies on this topic suffer form serious methodological limitations," McMillen notes in the abstract of his study.  The number of quality studies conducted and published about the academic outcomes of year-round education vs. traditional school year is limited. In the available research there is a lack of credible information to back claims that year-round schools are equal of superior to the traditional calendar schools, he said. (Page 6)

North Carolina experienced an explosion of year-round schools in the late 1990s, with numbers mushrooming from 73  in 1994 to 121 schools by 2000. About  94 percent of North Carolina  schools use the 45-15 calendar,  the most popular of  the alternative  calendars  used at some 3,000 year-round schools nationwide. About 87 percent of the schools operate on a single track schedule and  about 13 percent of North Carolina  schools use a multi-track schedule, which expands school capacity.

Periods of remediation are offered at most North Carolina schools during the frequent breaks of the year-round calendar, with 57 percent of the schools making them mandatory for  students who fall behind academically. (Page 16)  “This particular factor may be at least partially responsible for the slight benefits demonstrated for lower–achieving students in year-round programs in the current investigations,” McMillen said. But he also noted that “the differential effect for disadvantaged students, although statistically significant, was not of practical significance.” (Page 2)

The data for McMillen’s study, which includes test score comparisons of like socio-economic and demographic groups,  was  extracted from two years of scores of 1,470  North Carolina public schools. The sample included 106 schools that were operating on a year-round calendar during the 1997-98 school year.

McMillen’s  study, designed to look at achievement growth from one year to the next, found achievement in year-round schools was no higher than in traditional calendar schools.

The North Carolina year-round schools also  failed to reflect the academic advantage that is typically associated with  demographics of children who come from families with higher levels of education.  Students at North Carolina year-round schools have parents with slightly higher levels of  education than peers in traditional calendar schools and are less likely to be minority. The year-round students also had longer school years and more classroom instructional time than traditional calendar students because of  intersessions, factors that did not deliver on promises of higher achievement by advocates of a year-round calendar and longer school year.

McMillen reviewed the literature on time and learning and found the research implies “that simply exposing students to classrooms and teachers is not sufficient to affect learning, implying that the educational quality of the activities and interactions that occur in those settings mediates the relationship between time and learning.”

He said there is a need for further studies that differentiate between the effects of a year-round calendar and the effects of additional instructional time on student achievement.

What follows are summaries of major points from McMillen’s study, which the author reviewed and approved. McMillen may be reached at (919) 807-3808.

A copy of  McMillen’s 28-page study is available through REB Communications Inc. P.O. Box 50265, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32240-0265.  Send $5 to cover postage and copying fees.

           
No. Carolina Department of Education Study

Selected excerpts from

    “A Statewide Evaluation of Academic Achievement  in YR Schools”                                      by Bradley J. McMillen

 

Subject

Finding

Reference

 

Academic Achievement

 

 

 

NO DIFFERENCES IN READING OR MATH SCORES – No statistically significant differences in reading or math scores were found in test score comparisons of traditional calendar students with those in year-round programs, either a school-wide program  or a school-within a school that also had a traditional calendar.1

 

1 Pgs 12-13

 

 

 

 

At-Risk Students

 

 

 

 

 

 

BENEFITS MINIMAL TO AT-RISK STUDENTS

While at-risk students in school-wide year-round programs scored better than counterparts in traditional schools, the differences were not large, amounting to a .05 standard deviation in reading and even less in math. 2 There were no differences in scores for at-risk students when the year-round program was a “school within a school.” 3 

“Although a statistically significant interaction was found indicating that lower-achieving  students may benefit more from school-wide year-round schools, this effect is probably educationally insignificant by most standards.” 4

 

2 Page 13

 

 

 

 

8 Page 14

 

 

4 Page 16

 

 

 

Review
of  the
Research

 

FEW CREDIBLE STUDIES ON CALENDAR   “Most studies on this topic [year-round school] suffer from methodological limitations.” 5

  The number of quality studies conducted and published about the academic outcomes of year-round education vs. traditional school year is limited.  In the available research there is a lack of credible information to back claims that year-round schools are equal or superior to the traditional calendar schools. 6 

 

5 Abstract

 

 

6 Page 6

 

 

   

 

 

Time and Learning

 

 

ITS ABOUT QUALITY INSTRUCTIONAL TIME   The academic research  on time and learning  indicates “that simply exposing students to classrooms and teachers is not sufficient to affect learning, implying that the educational quality of the activities and interactions that occur in those settings mediates the relationship between time and learning.”

There is a need for further studies that differentiate between the effects of a year-round calendar and the effects of additional instructional time on student achievement. 7

 

 

 7 Page 3

 

 

Summer Learning Loss

 

 

 SUMMER LEARNING LOSS  CLAIMS  QUESTIONED   “Year-round advocates claim that dividing the long summer vacation period into small pieces helps alleviate some of the ‘forgetting’ that occurs over the summer in traditional school programs. However there is currently no specific scientific evidence to support that contention (Mitchell & Mitchell, 1999). 8

 

 

8 Page 7

 

About the Author: Billee Bussard is a Jacksonville, Fla., journalist who began studying and writing about  school calendar issues in 1992 as an editorial writer for the Florida Times-Union. She is co-author of “Year-Round Education: Lessons Learned The Hard Way.”  She now devotes full time to writing on school calendar issues and  sharing her research with  parents and school districts confronted with proposals for school  calendar reconfiguration.  In June 2001, she launched SummerMatters!!, a website devoted to school calendar issues (see: summermatters.com) She can be contacted at:  bussardre@aol.com.

   

California Study: Year-round calendar
provides unequal education opportunity

By Billee Bussard
SummerMatters!! Editor

    The multi-track year-round school calendar creates unequal education opportunity and segregates students by race, socioeconomic level and ethnic origin, according to a new study of test scores of 12,000 California students.

     One of the detrimental outcomes of multi-track enrollment choices or assignments  is  “substantial segmentation of student ethnic and achievement groups,” according to the  recently released study by  Ross E. Mitchell and Douglas E. Mitchell of  the Graduate School of Education at the University of California-Riverside.

Multi-track calendars have been used for decades to address school overcrowding and have been used in recent  years as part of school reform efforts to improve performance outcomes. Some districts faced with space problems when complying with policymaker orders to reduce class size use a multi-track calendar.

     The research, first presented August 6, 1999, to the 94th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, is detailed in a paper: Student Segregation and Achievement Tracking in Year-Round Schools."  The findings are based on data from 1998 state mandated tests taken by 12,000 students, grades two through six, in on large California urban school district.

       In analyzing the multi-track data, the researchers found “striking differences in student achievement levels and in student demographic and programmatic characteristics, as well as teacher resources . . . across the four YRE attendance tracks.” (See Page 13 of study.) The researchers documented “statistically significant achievement differences across school types and attendance tracks, as well as across levels for student and teacher factors.” (Page 14) The best performing track among the four examined by the researchers was the one that most resembled a traditional school calendar.

     The education inequity implications for children and their futures found in the multi-track year-round program have greater implications for future “choice” programs that are being proposed as part of nationwide school reforms, the authors said. The track with the highest achievement scores had student populations that were from higher income families, and had the lowest minority enrollment.

     “By failing to seek information about track choices or spend time in the sign-up queue, some parents signal willingness to accept lower education quality—lower than state policy or their children’s future needs would deem necessary,” the report said. The findings echo conclusions in other studies that “the most culturally privileged groups are finding their way in tracks ‘capable of reinforcing their advantage’, ” the researchers said. (Page 31)

     While the study focuses on the multi-track calendar, the findings offer concerns about the single-track year-round calendar, which shares a philosophy that a school calendar with shorter, more frequent breaks delivers better educational outcomes.

     Ross E. Mitchell is with the California Educational Research Cooperative and Douglas E. Mitchell is with the School Improvement Research Group.

   For more information on the study, contact:

Ross E. Mitchell, Research Fellow
California Educational Research Cooperative
Graduate School of Education
University of California
Riverside, CA 92521

(909) 787-2052 / FAX (909) 787-3491
ross.mitchell@ucr.edu:

On the following pages are summaries of major points from the Mitchell study, which the authors reviewed and approved.

           

              The Mitchell Multi-track Study:
                     Selected Excerpts

 

 

Subject

Finding

Reference

 

Education Inequities

ALL TRACKS ARE NOT EQUAL - Analysis of SAT scores shows a relationship between achievement level and the various year-round school tracks, indicating all tracks do not provide equal education opportunity.1

     Case studies show “the most popular tracks [ones that are most like the traditional calendar school year] have the highest mean achievement while the least popular tracks have the lowest mean achievement.”2

  CURRICULUM TRACKING  - Curriculum tracking is an outcome of using a multi-track system.  Research shows curriculum tracking virtually guarantees “unequal outcomes and, therefore, unequal chances outside of school.”3

 

 

1 Abstract

 

 

 

 

 

2 Page 8

 

 

3 Page 4

 

 

 

Test Scores

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OUTCOMES BETTER ON SOME TRACKS - An analysis of state-mandated achievement tests taken in spring of 1998, revealed “statistically significant levels” in academic attainment across tracks.

     The C-Track [most like the traditional school year with the longest vacation break in August] had the highest mean math scores, more than 8 points better than the D-Track with the next highest score [vacation in July] and 16.3 points above B-Track [vacation in September] with the lowest math scores.

      The C-Track students also scored about 16 points higher in reading than B-Track students and 6 points above the D-Track population.  The C-Track had the largest enrollment of white students, fewer Hispanics, the most English only students and the smallest limited English proficiency population. It also had the most experienced teachers.

     The B-Track, the lowest achievement track of the four, had highest number of Hispanics, highest numbers of children from low-income families and lower percentages of White, Black and other ethnic groups. It also had thelowest proportions of tenured teachers and teachers who attained a master’s degree or higher. The typical B-Track teacher had only one year of experience. 4

TRACKS WIDEN ACHIEVEMENT GAPS - The longer a child remains on a lower achieving track, the wider the achievement gap.  “The longer students are enrolled in YRE schools, the greater the divergence in academic performance by track…For children with longer YRE enrollment, track differences become larger.” 5

  [“It is not clear whether it is simply the presence of tracks themselves that cause the gap or the redistribution of students and teachers that then creates the environment that creates the widening gap,” Ross Mitchell said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 P. 18-19

5 Page 27

 

 

Multi-track &
Segregation

 

 

 

 

 

ETHNIC, ACADEMIC & SOCIAL SEGREGATION

   >One of the detrimental outcomes of multi-track  enrollment choices or assignments  is  “substantial segmentation of student ethnic and achievement groups.” 3

    >Multi-track year-round education “creates opportunities to separate children by ability, interest, achievement, special needs or a variety of other factions.”4  

    >“Students from low-income, non-English speaking, or non-White families are disproportionately found in the least popular tracks.” [Studies show the track most like a traditional calendar is the most popular]. 8

    >Compared to traditional calendar schools, the multi-track schools have “more limited English proficient (LEP) students, more teachers using alternative credentials, more tenured teachers, and more teachers with education beyond the BA, but with fewer having a  MA or higher.” 9

    >Two forms of social and academic segregation are found in the multi-track year-round schools studied: a population of lower achieving and more challenging students than in traditional calendar schools and “opportunity segregation,” in which education inequities are exacerbated over time. 10

 

MULTI-TRACK INEQUITIES SNOWBALL - “It is possible that initial assignment differences create inequalities in education effectiveness which ‘snowball’ into substantial achievement differences. It is equally likely, however, that initial differences are compounded by parent and teacher awareness of track differentials which lead them to exercise their choice options in ways that further exacerbate the initial segregation.” 11

 

 

6 Abstract

 

 

7 Page 5

 

 

 

6 Page 8

 

 

 

 

9 Page 18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Page 29

11 Page 30

 

 

YR Calendar
Academic
Claims
Unfounded

 

 

 

MULTIPLE FORGETTING OPPORTUNITIES -“The widely used argument that the staggered schedules of YRE calendars alone will improve achievement by shortening vacation periods does not appear to have a scientific foundation.” Research shows “multiple breaks create multiple ‘forgetting’ opportunities. 12

 

 

12 Page 6

 

About the Author: Billee Bussard is a Jacksonville, Fla., journalist who began studying and writing about  school calendar issues in 1992 as an editorial writer for the Florida Times-Union. She is co-author of “Year-Round Education: Lessons Learned The Hard Way.”  She now devotes full time to writing on school calendar issues and  sharing her research with  parents and school districts studying school calendar reconfiguration.  In June 2001, she launched SummerMatters!!, a website devoted to school calendar issues (see: summermatters.com) She can be contacted at:  bussardre@aol.com.