Pros and Cons of Year-Round School

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Year-round school calendars offer the same 180 days of schooling as the traditional 9-month school calendar that is believed to have been created to ensure children were home to help parents harvest crops on family farms.

While the schedule is not what most adults remember from their own school experience, it is not as cumbersome as some people assume it to be. Children are not given less time off, but instead, the usual nine months on, three months off schedule is redistributed with a schedule of short instruction periods that alternate with shorter breaks across the whole year.

Why Have Year-Round School?

Many advocates of year-round school or longer school days believe that more is better. Former President Barack Obama is among them. "The challenges of the new century demand more time in the classroom," he stated.

Frederick M. Hess, director of Education Policy Studies of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, notes that few countries offer more than seven consecutive weeks of vacation for students. This contrasts with the United States' average of 13 weeks. Hess suggests that following the agrarian calendar is an anachronistic way of running schools.

Not all educators agree that more time is better. In fact, the studies and research conducted by Elena Silva, a policy analyst at Education Sector, found that for most students, there is no correlation between the length of the school day or year and academic achievement. What they did find, however, is that how time in the classroom is spent proves incredibly important. In other words, it's not how long kids are in the classroom, it's how engaged in learning they are while they are there.

Proponents of year-round schools and longer school days say they will solve our nation's concerns about school performance and produce more globally competitive citizens. But opponents have also identified potential drawbacks. The debate over year-round schools has uncovered pros, cons and thought-provoking facts about such schooling:

Pros 

Some of the pros to year-round schooling include:

  • Shorter summer breaks mean students are less likely to incur summer learning loss, which may decrease the number of students being served by intervention programs.
  • Remediation needs can be addressed during the school year as opposed to during summer programs, possibly decreasing the need to include summer school in local budgets.
  • Vacation time can be more evenly distributed throughout the year, making it easier to schedule family vacations and giving students the opportunity to revitalize themselves more frequently.
  • Decreased need to re-teach skills after long vacations, allowing teachers to use classroom time more efficiently.
  • Families who struggle to find childcare or pay childcare expenses will benefit, as will children who are in sub-par childcare during summer vacation or after school.
  • With year-round schools, the U.S. school system would be more like that of other countries, providing students with the ability to have a more global educational experience.
  • Multi-tracking programs, those in which groups of students are on different school schedules, may allow for more school consolidation.
  • Students with lower test scores increase academic skills with more instructional time.

Cons 

Some of the arguments against year-round schooling include:

  • Initial costs associated with starting or changing a traditional school to a year-round school are high.
  • School maintenance costs, including day-to-day upkeep and utilities, can increase up to 10 percent if schools are open for longer.
  • Students who have difficulty with attention, due to a disability, may not get more out of longer school years. This, too, may increase the number of behavioral issues in the classroom.
  • Teens who need to work to help support themselves or make money for college may have difficulty holding or finding a job.
  • School budgets and staffing issues simply may not allow for extended school programs. Many schools already struggle to pay teachers a competitive wage, making it hard to keep high-quality teachers. The cost of teaching as a full-time endeavor may not be feasible either locally or federally.
  • Multi-tracking programs mean that parents could possibly have children that are on different schedules.
  • After-school activities, such as sports or the arts, may suffer or get lost in the shuffle (or budget) if school days are longer.
  • Students in year-round school may miss out on opportunities to spend time with children of other ages while learning about nature, as typical summer camp experiences may no longer be a part of the childhood experience.

Popularity is Growing

Since the 1980s, the number of year-round schools has gone from 350,000 students in 410 year-round public schools to more than two million students in 3700 year-round public in 2012, across 45 states.

Such growth in the numbers has school officials looking into research that examines both benefits in learning for students, but also whether year-round schools affect the cost of education.

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