by Tracy Harrington-Atkinson
Year Round Education
School districts throughout our nation are researching the possibility of switching from a traditional school year to a year-round educational calendar. “This year, more than two million students in close to 3,000 public schools in 41 states and 610 school districts attend year-round schools” (Chaika, 2009). Superintendent Eugene White of the Indianapolis Public Schools is considering such a reform for the middle schools within his district citing the need to increase more teaching time for his students. His proposal is intended to rectify the declining test scores on a state mandated exam. Only “27 percent of the district’s eighth-graders and 34 percent of its seventh-graders passed” the English portion of the exam (Gammill, 2007).
The year round calendar was instituted in contrast to the outdated traditional school calendar operating on a ten month schedule. This conventional 180 day school calendar was organized around a largely agrarian society when children were often needed to work during the summer months on their families’ farms to support their economic needs. Yet, educators propose this calendar is now outdated as our society has moved away from agriculture (Kelly, 2010).
What is Year Round Education?
The term ‘year round education’ is often misunderstood to mean students attend school five days a week all year long. When in actuality, year round education merely redistributes the common ten months of school equally among the calendar year. In some cases, districts may add 20 days to increase the number of school days within a year to 200.
There are several calendar options for year round education as cited by the National Association of Year-Round Education. The most commonly seen are the 45 -15 calendar where the student attends school for 45 days with a 15 day break before the next 45 day session. The 60 -10 option mirrors the 45 -15 schedule with the adjustment of 60 days in school and 10 days break before the next session. The last option is a 45 -10 split, possessing the same qualities of the previously mentioned two (NAYRE, 2010).
Why Year Round Education?
Year round education has the possibility to solve several common issues noted in the traditional school year such as information retention. Charles Ballinger, executive director emeritus of the National Association located in San Diego, California states “The longer students are away from material the more forgetting occurs” (Geiger, 2010). Paul von Hippel, “a sociologist at Ohio State University, found that, over a full year, math and reading test scores improved. We found that students in year-round schools learn more during the summer, when others are on vacation” (Science Daily, 2007).
Parents and educators have discovered there are more benefits than just information retention. Students are able to increase their achievement levels. In addition the periodic breaks help families miss the vacation peaks with their price increases (Geiger, 2010). Other benefits noted are that students have less time wasted in reviewing and teachers notice their students have less gaps in their learning. The students seems to be more productive due to the frequent breaks in their schedules. They rarely experience the burn out noted in traditional classes.
Parents have noted that the period of time when the kids are out of school can be used for extra-curricular activities which support and enhance what the child has learned during their school times. The students can utilize these resting times, breaking the summer months into shorter segments and redistributing it throughout the year, and therefore end the summer boredom experienced by many (Geiger, 2010).
Disadvantages of Year Round Education
Of course, there are also disadvantages to year round schooling. Some noted are that not all studies are conclusive to the academic benefits suggesting that students forget information whether they are out of school for the traditional summer months or just two weeks. The summer programs such as youth camps will suffer in attendance as well as summer employment becoming impossible for older students. Many of the school buildings are too old to have adequate air conditioning units. Lastly, if districts use year round schooling on a multi-track option parents could potentially have their children in school at different times of the year (Kelly, 2010).
Additional drawbacks include maintenance issues. All maintenance on facilities must be completed at night or on weekends -all overtime hours – which increases the costs to staff the buildings. Some maintenance requires greater lengths of time than available when the buildings are being used all year. Some teachers complain that their classrooms are relocated at the end of each session. Transportation costs naturally increase as the buses are used more frequently.
The California Department of Education shares what it believes to be one of the largest disadvantages which is the inability to house summer school options. This drawback can exasperate the remedial students who need the additional instruction in the summer months to catch up with their peers. To counter this problem, California instituted intersessions, similar to summer school where the remedial courses are offered during the fifteen day break. Intersessions have proven to be more successful than summer school as students who are falling behind do not lag too far before their needs are met (California Department of Education, 2010).
Expenses of Year Round Education
Despite the disadvantages, many teachers enjoy the school year broken into smaller segments. “Chris Pultz, a third- and fourth-grade teacher at Trailblazer Elementary in Douglas County, Colorado, likes the year-round schedule. “[I can] go full tilt for the entire nine weeks, realizing that I have a three-week break coming up. I cannot even imagine maintaining the high level of individual instruction for longer stretches of time. … We spend a day, maybe two, reviewing when we come back to school after a three-week break. Then, it is off to the races” (Chaika, 2009).
The costs of year-round education derive from the increase expenses of operating a building throughout the year, staffing -both the faculty to teach and administrate in addition to the support staff consisting of clerical and janitorial, insurance increases, materials used, and even transportation. Yet despite the increase in these needed functions, many districts report a decrease in their expenses. Four school districts in California reported a total savings between $73.98 to $201.89 per student per year (Dooley, 2010).
Andrew Overstreet, the superintendent of the Danville, Virginia school district comments on the expenses of year-round schooling. “Our continuous cycle allows for forty additional days of school. Many of our students — 50 to 60 percent of them — come to school with great gaps in their learning, The additional days cost approximately $11 per day per student, or about $440 per year per student. Retaining a student costs about $6,000 per year, plus remediation costs and possible expensive special education costs. … Year-round schooling has been very cost effective for us” (Chaika, 2009).
Other potential savings considered are in the absentee rate. The average daily attendance (ADA) rate increases in proportion to the monies received from state agencies. Additional savings come through the lack of vandalism since the buildings are being used year round (California Department of Education, 2010).
Despite the positive financial response of many school districts, others have found the expense to be exorbitant with little benefits. Hough (1990) investigated several probable causes to the budget discrepancies between the districts using year-round education. Each district has a different accounting method. Some include very detailed budgets compared to others with less detail in their itemization. Within this same realm, definitions of relevant expenses within the year-round education vary from district to district. Some district included as an expenses connected to their year round education a missed opportunity for building improvements. Other differences included different accounting methods, resources rolled over from previous years and even legislations such as grant monies.
Implementing a year round educational calendar may seem daunting to administrators, teachers and parents. However, the California Department of Education published an implementation strategy complete with a checklist and tips on how to organize this program. This checklist contains thirty-five steps covering every need from the building facilities and staffing to planning and budget concerns (California Department of Education, 2010).
Wat, J. (2010) shares her opinion “many students in our country have been disadvantaged long enough by the traditional schooling, which was designed to solve yesterday’s farm labor problem. We cannot expect our students to compete successfully across the globe with the baggage of summer learning loss and insufficient learning time. Their international peers do not have this baggage … Progress has been made in various parts of the country to move to an educational system that matches our time. We need to accelerate the process so that more and more students in the U.S. can soon be relieved from the bondage of the traditional schooling. It takes courage and effort to change an old, long-grained educational system that has been with our country for decades. But our effort will be well-rewarded when we reach our goals of raising our students’ achievements and eliminating inequities.”
California Department of Education. (2010). Year-Round Education Program Guide. [Online]. Available: www.cde.ca.gov/ls/fa/yr/guide.asp
Chaika, G. (2009). Is Year Round Schooling the Answer? [Online]. Available: www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin137.shtml
Dooley, J. (2010). Year Round Education and the Impact on School Finance. [Online]. Available: www.mrdooley.org/uploads/1/7/1/9/1719860/year-round_education.pdf
Gammill, A. (2007). IPS Considers Year-round Middle School. The Indianapolis Star [Online]. Available: www.nayre.org/Indy%20Star%202%2021%2007.pdf
Geiger, D. (2010). The Pros and Cons of Year Round Schools. [Online]. Available: http://lifestyle.msn.com/your-life/family-parenting/ articlesc.aspx? cp-documentid=8326566
Hough, D. (1990). Cost Effects Analysis of Year Round Education Programs. [Online]. Available: www.eric.ed.gov:80/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sqlcontent_storage_01/0000019b/80/20/66/ea.pdf
Kelley, M. (2010). Year Round Education. [Online]. Available: 712educators.about.com/cs/reformtime/a/yearrounded.htm
National Association for Year-Round Education. (2010). Typical Year Round Calendars. [Online]. Available: www.nayre.org/cal.htm
Science Daily. (2007). Year-Round Schools. [Online]. Available: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070811151449.htm
Wat, J. (2010). Extended Year Round Schooling, Extended Success. [Online]. Available: www.nayre.org/jeanette_wat.htm
Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a masters in education. She has published several titles, including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel’s 8, MBTI Learning Styles: A Practical Approach and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.