Are year-round public schools a good idea?
Year-round schools would bridge learning gaps
Drewry is executive director of secondary instruction for Roanoke City Public Schools.
As the executive director of secondary instruction for Roanoke City Public Schools, I would like to share my opinion about year-round schooling. This topic has been discussed by my colleagues in Roanoke City Schools recently as we have been brainstorming how we may provide learning experiences that will help our students achieve higher levels of academic success.
When I refer to “year-round schooling,” I would like to define the term in a non-traditional manner. The traditional school calendar is 180 days, beginning in August or September and culminating in May or June. It was designed in a time when children worked on farms after school and in the summer. The most common forms of year-round schooling utilize the same calendar length of 180 days, but, instead of a three-month summer break, they provide shorter, more frequent breaks throughout the school year for students.
In order to facilitate greater academic success in our urban environment, I believe that we must provide more days of contact time with our students. In Roanoke City Schools, we have an obligation to our students and our community to define year-round schooling as a means of providing educational opportunities for students throughout the entire calendar year, not merely for 180 days as defined by the traditional length of a school year.
Any teacher would tell you that students have difficulty retaining information over the long summer break. There is long-standing research that shows that summer learning loss is most acute for low-income students in urban areas. Given that research, it is imperative that we try to bridge the summer learning gap by providing opportunities for enrichment and remediation for all students throughout the summer months, not just 180 days of the calendar year. In particular, we must provide students with opportunities to increase their aptitude in all areas, with particular emphasis on reading, writing and mathematics. The learning experience must be different from that of the regular school year, but extend the content to provide a firm foundation for the following school year.
Opponents of year-round schooling often cite reasons that are primarily related to inconveniences or are of a financial nature: childcare costs, increased facility costs, overworked staff, difficulty scheduling professional development opportunities and a perceived difficulty in scheduling extracurricular activities.
However, the Roanoke City Schools’ proposed model is one that focuses on the needs of the learner and places academic achievement at the forefront. It is not about changing the calendar year, but extending it to provide more opportunities for our students to learn. The key is not just extending the amount of time, but maximizing quality learning experiences that will lead to student success.
More than students’ class work is impacted
Tarlow is a sociologist who lives in College Station, Texas. He is president of a firm specializing in tourism security.
Year-round schooling raises some concerns that must be considered. Children need what some people call “the other education.” The purpose of education is to provide not just mere book learning, but multiple tools so that young people may have a greater chance of success in life. Summer jobs and family time provide important life lessons. The United States is a nation where many children live in single-parent households, and the constriction of summer vacation signifies a major threat to an already weak family structure.
Forcing children to return to school during the summer months also translates into children being forced to practice sports or go on school buses when the weather is hottest. Lastly, a 1998 study by the Texas legislature found there tends to be a negative correlation between the early start of the school year and standardized national test scores.
Here are some questions to consider in regard to the year-round school issue:
1. How will year round schooling affect a particular community? The logic behind community control of education is the realization that there is no one model that fits all communities. Communities must take into consideration the demographics, economic situation and costs of building maintenance.
2. How will year-round school impact student employment? For example, the tourism industry provides multiple entry-level jobs to high school students. If students can no longer work in the summer, are they trading theoretical better grades for less life learning opportunities?
3. Which parts of the community will be affected negatively by children being in school over the summer? Some sections of the business community or community at large may be hurt by year-round schooling. What effect will their economic decline have on a community’s general economy?
4. Will year-round schooling help some segments of your community? Are there some aspects of community that will be helped by having children vacation at different times? Can these benefits be used to offset other losses?
5. What are the sociological and psychological consequences of year round schooling? Such a major change is sure to affect many aspects of American society. How will children see grandparents or relatives who live at a distance? What will happen in situations where one parent has custody, and the other has summer visitation rights?
6. What are the economic consequences of this new program for teachers? Many people go into teaching because it provides flexible schedules. If these schedules cease to be and teachers no longer have a block of time in which to gain secondary jobs, will these changes affect the number of people who can afford to become teachers?