Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Arguments for Year-Round School

I know I'm tilting at windmills, but.... Ever since I was a teacher, I have wished we had year-round school. When I taught, my main reason was so that I could have a decent snow skiing vacation, but now I have more reasons. I was reminded of the benefits of year-round school when I read Year-Round School? My Kids Love It. Yours Will Too by Brigid Schulte.

I know our traditional school schedule has little hope of changing on a broad scale any time soon, but there are some really good reasons it should:

Less forgetting time: Our summers are too darn long. Kids forget so much over the summer that every school year starts with refreshing kids' memories after the long break. I am not guessing here. There is real research to back this up. For instance, Harris Cooper's paper: Summer Learning Loss: The Problem and Some Solutions. Here is one snippet:
... summer learning loss equaled at least one month of instruction as measured by grade level equivalents on standardized test scores-on average, children's tests scores were at least one month lower when they returned to school in fall than scores were when students left in spring.
A continuous culture of learning: As it is now, kids learn from September to May and play from June to August. Yes, I have excluded June from the "learning" side of this equation because by June, many kids and teachers are so burned out that they have lost energy. There is also a cost at the beginning of the school year. Aside from reminding kids about what they learned, teachers also have to get the kids back into the habit of learning. The gear shift from a long summer to the beginning of the nine-month journey through school can be a jarring one.

More opportunities for help: If a kid is struggling at the end of the first quarter of Algebra, the kid is probably doomed to three quarters of unhappiness. Courses that are progressive in nature (e.g., math, reading, and some sciences) can be miserable for any student who struggles at the beginning. With a year-round schedule, a kid who is struggling at the end of the term has time between terms in which he can catch up and prepare for the next term. There is less need for repeat summer school when kids can be given help along the way.

I have no doubt that year-round school is more expensive than our current agrarian model, but if we are serious about improving education, I think it's a smart investment.

Besides, I want to be able to take my kids to Breckenridge for a week of skiing in March.


Steve said...

Here's the problem with your arguments:

You failed to mention multi-tracking, a key component of the proposed year-round schooling system.

Multi-tracking is when the school divides its students up into equal groups. These groups attend school and get breaks at different times.

This can be very problematic, considering you mentioned "boredom" to be a valid reason.

Here's an extremely plausible example. It's June. You're a twelve-year old boy and you're out for three weeks of vacation. Under the multi-tracking system, your best friend is in school while you're out. You have nothing to do. Sound familiar? It is.

But wait, it gets better.

You're bored out of your mind. Family vacation sound good? Too bad. Sarah, your eleven-year old sister attending your school, is currently in school, in the same "track" as your friend. Looks like there's no chance for a vacation!

This can easily become a problem.

Just wanted to comment.

reston kid said...

Steve: Thanks for bringing this up. I agree that multi-tracking has numerous problems.

Note that I was not talking about any particular year-round schooling proposal. As I did some poking around (thanks to your comment), I found that some school systems are considering multi-track year-round schooling as a strategy to alleviate crowding. This was not at all what I was considering. Around here, we have seen some year-round schools, but I am unaware of any of them multi-tracking.

Anyway, I agree that multi-tracking would be problematic, so I should be more clear: I am a fan of single-track year-round school.