It’s hard to imagine life without summer vacation. What would we do without lazy summer days catching up on sleep, spending the day at the beach, or trying to earn some money in a seasonal job? The summer-off schedule evolved when we had a more agricultural society, so that kids could help families on the farm. Some say that this is an outdated model in our modern society, especially given the academic declines that occur for some students during the summer break. As a result, the shift to year-round school is becoming a more common practice.
Since the topic is relatively new, there isn’t much research on whether year-round schooling is actually beneficial. And the research that does exist suggests mixed results. However, there is compelling evidence that summer vacation leads to learning loss. According to Oxford Learning, 2.6 months of math skills and 2 months of reading skills are lost over the summer. In addition, it is estimated that six weeks in the fall are spent relearning old material to make up for this learning loss. There have been studies done that show that students score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do at the beginning of summer vacation. Summer learning loss is not just something that is temporary. In fact, losses can accumulate through high school, college and beyond. It is especially concerning because two-thirds of the achievement gap between low-income families and wealthier families is a result of summer learning loss.
Year-round schooling is not necessarily the same as increasing the number of days that students are in school. In fact, many year-round schools have a total of 180 days of school (just as traditional school schedules do), but kids attend classes year-round, with more frequent breaks in between. The 45-15 plan, where students spend 45 days in school and then have 15 days off, is the most common year-round school plan. However, the 60-20 and the 90-30 plans are also ways to organize year-round schooling. With this system, schools can either choose to have all their students be on the same calendar, or they can implement a multi-rack schedule, which has groups of students attending school at different times.
Advocates of the year-round schedule describe the following advantages:
- With a long summer break, students tend to forget a lot of what they learned during the school year. Year-round schooling may help to improve retention rates.
- In addition, with dispersed vacations, students will get breaks when they need them most: during the school year. With all the responsibilities students must manage on a daily basis, it would be helpful to have more frequent breaks to give their brains (and schedules) a rest.
- Other advocates argue that it can help working parents manage their schedules.
- Some argue that having year-round schooling is a better use of school space because during the summer, school buildings are often unused.
- If there is a “staggered” or multi-rack schedule, it might reduce class size, making it easier for schools to manage students.
Critics of the year-round schedule have these concerns:
- Year-round schooling could interfere with scheduling sports and extracurricular activities. There could be problems with organizing practices, games, or competitions outside of school.
- It could overcomplicate schedules for parents
- Year round schooling could create problems for teenagers who want to get summer jobs. Many teens rely on the money they earn in the summer.
- Summer programs and camps will suffer with this school system in place, and students would lose out on the benefits of such summer programs.
- The transition to year-round school could also cause financial problems for districts.
- People argue that year-round schooling could take away from the time that students should have to do things outside of the classroom.
Approximately 4% of public schools are year-round schools according to the National Center for Education Statistics. However, without more research to support this practice, it’s difficult to say if more schools will adopt this new system.