Are year-round public schools a good idea?
Schools must reflect the social world
Tarlow is a sociologist who lives in College Station, Texas. He is president of a firm specializing in tourism security.
I do not know the system suggested by the Roanoke school board, so I am writing this response blind. I do know that there are many uses of the term year-round schooling. I also know that much of our curriculum is outmoded and that there is a great deal of time wasted in school systems around the nation. I also know that there is not necessarily a relationship between learning (a term that needs to be defined) and time spent.
If the time is spent wisely, then learning may increase by added time. If the time is spent poorly, then the destruction of families and the creation of a class of single parents who rarely see their children is poorly thought-out.
Schools must reflect the social world in which they live. Schools do not live apart from this world, but rather must foster the total child. We would be wise to review our curricula and ask why we are teaching what we are teaching. What are our educational goals? What type of person do we hope to develop? Do we want programs in which one size fits all, or do we need greater flexibility in a world that often lacks cohesion and is changing a lot faster than our educational system?
These are key concerns. I am sure that those who want year-round schooling want the best for America’s children. Those who oppose it offer very legitimate concerns, and it is imperative that the educational system be aware that it is part of the community and not separate from it.
Year-round schools can counter social ills
Drewry is executive director of secondary instruction for Roanoke City Public Schools.
In the past few decades, we have incorporated more strenuous standards into the core curriculum, elevated the level of expectations for students and increased the rigor of evaluation of teachers. While student achievement has increased marginally, the only proven way to have significant gains in student achievement is to increase instructional time. We can extend the day through after-school programs or extend the week by holding school on Saturday, but these are only temporary solutions to a permanent problem.
Extended-year schooling would have positive economic consequences for teachers as well as students. Many teachers have second jobs because they cannot afford to receive an income for only 10 months out of the year. By providing longer contracts for an extended year, not only would teachers receive positive fiscal benefits, they would be contributing more toward retirement.
In Roanoke City Public Schools, more than 71 percent of students receive free or reduced price meals. In addition, 411 students have been identified as homeless this year, which is up more than 25 percent from last year.
These students do not go on summer vacations with their families, for their parents must work multiple jobs to make ends meet. If they go to camps, they are typically subsidized educational opportunities. Older students often work throughout the year, not just summer months. If these students are not attending summer school, many worry about their next meal. Younger students may be left at home alone or with elderly family members who are unable to provide appropriate supervision. Older students who do not have jobs may find other ways to occupy their time, possibly on the streets.
Our students must be provided with the tools to overcome the negative effects of poverty. As we strive to be a model for urban education, making quality educational opportunities available for all students so that they may become productive members of society is our highest priority. Lengthening the school year and providing programs designed to enrich the curriculum will allow us to produce a better-educated citizenry, which benefits all of us in the future.