The typical school year in the United States runs 180 days, nine to 10 months of classroom instruction with two to three months off. However, many schools have experimented with changing to year-round academics. Under this new system, the summer time off would be redistributed throughout the school year into smaller breaks. Year-round schooling could have numerous effects on students and teachers, including help for disadvantage students, difficulties with implementation, and the potential for better knowledge retention.
Knowledge Retention and Focus
The most common argument for year-round schooling is that it would keep students from forgetting information over the summer. According to Education Week, 39 studies confirm that test scores and mathematics ability tend to drop during the three-month vacation. A year-round school calendar could therefore help students better retain and apply information. Similarly, student focus in the classroom can also improve. The Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) revealed that on the year-round system, teachers and students tend to be absent less and aren't as likely to "burn out."
Education Week also demonstrates that economically disadvantaged and at-risk students have benefited from a year-round calendar. One study of three schools in California who adopted the system showed dramatic growth among this population of students. According to ERIC, it also positively impacted the children of migrant farmworkers, who often miss class throughout the school year. The National Education Association also shares that year-round schooling provides more opportunities for tutoring and remedial help during the school year.
According to Auburn University, developing a year-round school calendar can be challenging. Since 1980, 95 percent of schools who switched to year-round schooling have returned to the traditional calendar altogether. Many year-round schools also use multitrack schooling, which divides teachers and students into groups that follow their own schedules for classroom time and vacations. While Education Week reports that this can save energy and money, it could also cause confusion in terms of extracurricular activity schedules, use of facilities, and student promotion to higher grades.
While advocates of year-round schooling believe it will improve student grades and test scores, there is no conclusive research that it improves the quality of learning. An Ohio State University study showed that students in year-round school and the traditional system experienced the same amount of growth in reading and math scores over the course of a year. ERIC reports that out of nine studies on the effectiveness of different school calendars, only three favored year-round schooling. Schools should therefore consider their districts' specific needs carefully before adopting a new calendar.
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