Year-round school promoters have turned
to the fuzzy concept of "summer learning
loss" as a main argument for switching calendars.
But as with their unfounded claims of academic benefits from year-round
school, there is little credible research to show a relationship between
reconfiguring the school year with shorter more frequent vacation
breaks and academic gains of any significance.
Testing - Some calendar tracks are more advantageous than others for higher scores. Vacation breaks that fall in January and February cost valuable time in preparing for Advanced Placement exams in the spring. Fewer honors classes are offered on some tracks than others.
College admissions - "Teenagers can't get critical summer internships and jobs that look god on college applications because they're in school, while others must return to campus during their vacations to participate in extracurricular activities such as band and yearbook." The schedule often makes it difficult for students to meet recruiters.
Maintenance - "Maintenance is difficult to schedule when school is nearly always in session. Grass can't grow on much of the football field because it's constantly in use."
Textbooks - Getting books to students becomes more difficult.
School morale - The year-round schedule fragments the school. The
tracts act like fault lines, fracturing students by abilities and
accounts -- Junior High Schools
The following information has been extrapolated from media accounts and other reference sources.
YR Calendar source of many headaches for
CALDWELL COUNTY, N.C. - The year-round school calendar at Hudson Middle School was dropped after parents, teachers and other school staff outlined difficulties presented by offering both a traditional calendar and a year-round calendar in the school. Among the problems cited:
Enrollment imbalances - These result in combination classes of both traditional and year-round students, "especially in band, chorus and athletics. . . . In those classes. . . . both groups suffer because one group is always ahead and the other behind." The problem forced the school band to compete at a lower level of music.
Communications and instructional problems - "Teachers aid they do not have shared planning time and the media center does not always have certified instructors available."
Elective classes - The year-round calendar's five-week sessions hamper the quality of instruction of alternative lab, occupational and career exploration, computer, art, Spanish, band and chorus classes.
Remediation - Intersessions get low participation from children who need remediation.
Food Service - "Custodial and cafeteria staff have only half the time of other schools to prepare for the return of children."
Extra curricular activities - Scheduling difficulties arise for extra curricular
activities, dancing and bus routes.
No academic advantage for Jr. High
XENIA, OHIO - The school board decided against a year-round calendar for the district, responding to parent concerns. A representative of a group organized against a year-round calendar proposal for Central Junior High said research shows no academic advantage to calendar change, and disadvantages for family life and extra-curricular activity. Xenia had no YR middle schools as of the 2000-2001 school year.
"Research indicates year-round school not beneficial."
Xenia Daily Gazette, March 13, 1999
YR calendar creates attendance problems for all schools
FORT WORTH, TEXAS - Eight middle schools operating on a year-round schedule were returned to a traditional school year in 1999.
Between 1999 and the 2000-01 school year, the number of Fort Worth Schools on year-round calendar dropped from 27 schools to just 4 elementary schools. The YR calendar was first eliminated at eight middle schools and five specialized schools. Among the reasons cited:
No academic benefit - Fort Worth School Supt.
Thomas Tocco said year-round schools had not proven more
effective than regular schools."
| Attendance declines - Tocco said year-round school
related attendance declines were evident at some middle and high
schools on the traditional school year because older siblings stayed
home to care for younger ones during the year- round school
frequent breaks. |
In the four years Stripling Middle School was on the year-round calendar, attendance dropped at the beginning and end of the year-round school year, the principal said.
-"Year-round schooling on wane," Forth Worth-Star Telegram, Feb. 10, 1998 and April 22, 2001
When a school district is faced with a serious overcrowding problem, they are often tempted to use the quick fix of a multi-track year-round calendar to expand classroom space. The multi-track calendar is extremely difficult to administer at the junior high and high school level, and can create serious education inequities and segregation problems. (See: Important Studies.) There are better alternatives.
Here are some ideas.
1) Reshuffle/redistrict the elementary school population to free a building for another junior high
A district could reshuffle the elementary school population, either by redistricting or reshuffling the elementary classes to other buildings to free a school that could be converted to a junior high. It is easier to find classroom space to accommodate elementary kids than junior high kids. In Jacksonville, Fla., the school district from time to time has rented church building Sunday School classrooms to house elementary kids when there was an overcrowding situation. Your school district could do the same to free space in elementary schools and convert one school to a junior high. Elementary kids can also be housed in community buildings, park and recreation building facilities with some minor renovations.
Expanding capacity by using portables is an obvious answer, although only a temporary solution to overcrowding.
3) Dual enrollment for high schoolers in junior colleges
Allowing kids who are capable of attending classes at the local junior college in a dual enrollment program is one way to expand classroom capacity for a school district. Depending on how large your district is, this could result in a shift of a junior high grade to a senior high.
4) Sixth-grade centers or Ninth-grade Centers
One approach might be to establish sixth grade or nine-grade centers at one school, in which all kids in the district are bused to one school. This would relieve the capacity at the junior high and high schools, limiting the classes to 7th and 8th grade, and thus making more room. Sixth-graders are still immature, and often have trouble adjusting to the junior high with older kids. They are less likely to be bullied by older kids in this setting. Studies indicate ninth-grade is a critical transition year, a make or break year for future academic success. Some schools are now experimenting with nine-grade centers as an intervention. Using this approach can also relieve overcrowded high schools while possibly improving education. See:http://www.dallasnews.com/metro/stories/448115_ninthgrade_19m.html
5) Industry-based elementary classes
Some large corporations are now housing early grades on their corporate campuses. In Jacksonville, Fla., for instance, a large bank has established such a school. This also helps the industry in that the on-site school is an incentive to attract workers with young children. It also frees capacity in the district's elementary schools. That makes shifting school populations easier. A handful of corporations with schools on their business grounds could relieve enough space in elementary schools so that one building could be converted to a junior high. Again, conditions in your community have to be right for this to happen. Also, tax incentives for those industries that do this would encourage more participation. There is a growing move across the country for pre-K and all-day kindergarten classes, which put further pressure school capacity. These two grades could easily be housed at various industry locations.
6) Creative school housing solutions
See this USA story- http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2001/09/10/schools.htm
Smaller schools housed in alternative sites have proven to be a viable solution to school overcrowding, according to a report by the Humphrey Institute's Center for School Change, an educational research group.
The report, prepared for the U.S. Department of Education's National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, is based on findings at 22 school in 12 states, pared from a group of 100 such schools. The study found that schools that share facilities in these alternative settings often offer students broader learning opportunities. Here are some examples outlined in a Sept. 10, 2001 USA Today :
|"A public school located in the Mall of America in Bloomington,
Minn., where students can compare marketing and advertising strategies
and study other business practices.
||"El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice, which occupies a
former church in Brooklyn, N.Y. The school shares space with a variety
of community development and service programs, including a health and
wellness clinic, career and guidance services and a program to help
community residents learn to speak English.
||"The Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center, which shares space
with South Mountain Community College in Phoenix. High school students
have access to college facilities, including a fitness center and
lounge area, and also can take courses from college faculty.|
The Humphrey Center report says smaller schools generally are a safer place for students, get better achievement results and graduation rates increase. These smaller schools at alternative sites also have lower rates of discipline problems.
Updated Sept. 21, 2001
In the on-going war of words over the best
remediation solution for at-risk kids, beware of the year-round school
It is a horse of many colors, disguised by several
labels including: “the balanced calendar,” “the continuous learning
calendar,” and “the
modified school year.” All offer up a hollow promise of test score
improvement, cost savings, reduced absenteeism and other social benefits.
In a May 23. 2001 commentary in Education Week,
“Is Summer School the Answer or the Problem?” Marilyn J. Stenvall,
then executive director the National Association For Year-Round Education,
offers school calendar reconfiguration as a better remediation approach.
She likens summer school programs to “summer prison, where
youngsters have committed the crime of failure and are sentenced to a cell
of like offenders to do their time.”
While summer school isn’t the right answer,
experience and test scores show the year-round calendar isn’t a better
solution. BOTH approaches are too little too late.
The year-round calendar similarly “sentences and
incarcerates” children, only more often than the summer school
remediation approach. With a year-round calendar, which breaks up the same
180 school days with frequent vacation breaks and a shorter summer
vacation, at-risk children are “sentenced” and “punished” with
more time in school. They can
be condemned to spend all of their vacation time in year-round school
intersessions. It’s a system that reinforces feelings of failure more
often. It’s a system that fails to deliver.
A century of year-round school experiments in this nation has failed to produce a credible body of research to show the year-round calendar improves performance. Most academic reviews of the research conclude that year-round school is, at best, an inert intervention.
At worst, the year-round calendar may be
“academically damaging.” Those
are the words used to assess the wide use of
the year-round calendar in California urban schools in lawsuit over
education inequities filed last year by the Mexican American Legal Defense
The lawsuit claims are supported by data in a study
from the University of California Riverside, in which a father and son
team of researchers found a multi-track year-round calendar, used in
California and elsewhere to address overcrowding, segregates by ethnic,
racial and socio-economic groups and produces patterns of education
inequity across tracks. Interestingly, the researchers found the highest
test scores on a multi-track schedule that most resembles a traditional
major government or government-associated studies produced since a 1986
National Governors’ Association report
endorsed the year-round calendar have served as catalysts for a
of those was the 1992 Southern Growth Policies Board report titled:
“Year-Round Education: Restructuring Schools to Complement a Changing
Economy.” Nearly all of the 37 year-round school experiments then
ongoing in Southern Growth member states have since returned to a
traditional school year. Most of the “model” year-round schools
singled out in that report dropped the year-round calendar.
Some of the most damning evidence to date about the
remediation merits of the year-round calendar is found in study by the
department of education of North Carolina, one of the 13 Southern United
States and Puerto Rico that compose the Southern Growth Policies Board.
A March 2000 study of 345,000 test scores by
Bradley McMillen of the North Carolina Department of Education, Division
of Accountability Services, found no academic advantage for those North
Carolina students forced to go to school year-round.
The North Carolina study is the largest and most comprehensive
performance comparison to date of traditional calendar vs. year-round
The findings in the North Carolina study also
provide figures that should concern taxpayers about spending money on a
longer school year. A
majority of North Carolina year-round schools make the “intersession
sentence” mandatory for at-risk kids. These children received perhaps as
much as an extra month of classroom instruction time, but the study shows
they did little better academically than the at-risk kids at North
Carolina’s traditional calendar schools.
proof of the futility of calendar change
is also found in experiences of
hundreds of school districts across the nation.
the last five years, two thirds of the year-round public schools in Texas
have dumped the calendar, according to the Texas Education Agency
Texas is down to just 114 from a peak of 359 year-round schools in
the 1996-97 school year. Some Texas schools, like others around the
nation, have used a year-round calendar in hopes its mid-summer school
start date, which provided more instructional days before testing, would
improve scores. But a study by the Dallas school district found no
correlation between more instructional days and higher test scores.
Florida experienced a similar dramatic exodus in the mid 1990s,
the year-round school marketers dismissed it as
“an anomaly.” Today,
about 30 schools in the state still hold onto a year-round calendar after
hundreds dropped it. Pensacola, the largest Florida year-round school
district, just dropped all 10 of its year-round schools, citing high
A Murfreesboro grassroots
organization that did its homework on the year-round calendar provided
school board members with convincing evidence that calendar change was not
a solution for improving schools or saving money.
During the course of the heated
debate there, a historian stepped forward with information to refute the
often repeated myth that the traditional school year is an outmoded
The cotton pickin’ truth is that
the move toward a mid-summer school start resembles the Depression era
school calendar that was arranged so children could help harvest cotton,
Nell Blankenship, past president of the Rutherford County Historical
Society, told a Murfreesboro newspaper reporter. She noted it wasn't until
the 1950s when the school year started after Labor Day. “We've just
gradually worked back to July. Each year we go a little bit further back
to that calendar of the 1930s.”
Even in California, which has housed
as much as 80 percent of all year-round school students during the last
three decades, there has been an exodus from the year-round calendar as
fast as new schools can be built to address rapid school population growth
and classroom overcrowding problems. Media and other sources indicate at
least 800 California year-round schools
were terminated or since the 1970s. (A partial and growing list of
those school districts that have rejected a year-round calendar is now
posted on a new website: SummerMatters.com.)
time to shift calendar experiment money to more immediate interventions
during a traditional school year. Respond
quickly to kids who fall behind with after-school programs, school tutors,
smaller class sizes for slow learners, classroom assistants for teachers
and Saturday classes.
Put at top of the list of
interventions more teacher training and better curriculum. That’s what
worked for Hutto, Texas,
which actually reduced the number of days in its school year.
approach since 1992 has been to shift money from classroom instruction
days to teacher training and curriculum. School days have been trimmed to
as few as 165 over the last decade, yet test scores have increased or
remained steady every year. Hutto’s only elementary school has become a
designated model school for the state. [For more information, contact Ben
Carson at (512) 759-3771.]
Clearly, more of the same kind of
instruction is not the answer.
summer school and the year-round calendar fail as effective remediation
approaches. What’s worse, they rob children of important summertime
learning opportunities that are critical to healthy growth and
development. There are even important lessons to be learned from boredom
and standing in long hot lines with family waiting to get into a movie or
an attraction, says psychologist Peter Tarlow of
Texas, who is an expert on the interrelationship of leisure and
calendar reformers have failed to acknowledge that summer matters in many
ways to American society and its economic success.
Where might we be today if a Seattle teenager named Bill Gates
hadn’t had the leisure time of a long summer break to tinker with
computers in his garage, or the Wright brothers
unencumbered summer days to dream and think about man flying?
1994, Dr. Leo Wisenbender of the Program and Evaluation office of the Los
Angeles district, the largest year-round school district in the nation,
summed it best:
is absurd to suggest that children aren’t learning during the summer.
It’s a different type of learning, which simply is not tested.”
Bussard is editor of SummerMatters!!,
a Jacksonville, Fla.-based newsletter on school calendar issues, and
SummerMatters.com, a website launched June 21 (the first day of summer).
Bussard, a journalist for 22 years, began researching and writing on the
year-round calendar in 1992, as an editorial writer for the Florida
Times-Union. She is co-author with Suzanne McCrary of “Year-Round
Education: Lessons Learned the Hard Way.” She can be reached at email@example.com