Refers to a reorganization of the traditional 180-day school calendar so that children attend school in every season of the year.
In year-round schools, children attend all year with more frequent, shorter breaks taking the place of the 10-week summer vacation characteristic of the traditional calendar. A typical schedule would feature three-week "intersessions" between ten-week academic blocks.
"Year-round" schooling is also the term frequently used to describe what is more accurately called "extended-year" schooling. Extended-year schools may operate on a similar year-round schedule, but their calendars include more days of instruction. Instead of going to school for around 180 days per year, children enrolled in extended-year systems typically attend classes for 200 or more days. In 1995, it was estimated that more than 1.5 million children in the United States attended year-round schools, about five times the number in 1985.
The framework for the traditional school schedule in the United States, with its 180 days and long summer vacation, was set in the more agrarian culture of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Because children were needed to perform vital functions on family farms during the late spring and summer, schooling was relegated to cooler weather months. Even as times changed and society became more industrialized, the tradition became ingrained in American culture. Women, who had not yet begun to work outside the home in large numbers, were available to care for younger children during the long summer break. Families scheduled vacations and other recreational activities around the summer months. Because of the long-standing tradition, proposals to institute year-round schooling, with or without added days of instruction, typically are met with vociferous debate.
Many opponents of year-round schooling simply object to breaking tradition. Others point to more substantive pitfalls. Teachers who want to study for advanced degrees or enrichment would lose their chance at concentrated study. Summer recreational opportunities—camps, swimming pools, water parks—would be lost to children. The organizations that operate such activities would suffer financially and jobs would be lost. For most communities, the financial burden presented by year-round schools is another major objection. Teacher salaries and training costs would increase, as would the cost of operating schools year.
Those in favor of extending the school calendar point to many benefits of such a move. Because large numbers of women now work outside the home, many parents are faced with the dilemma of finding safe, stimulating, and affordable child care during the summer. Year-round schools would ease some of that burden. All-season schooling would present special benefits to innercity areas where weak, at-home support for education is common and drop-out rates are high. Teachers would experience less stress and burn-out because of the more frequent breaks. School buildings, targets for vandals during the summer, would be easier to maintain if continuously occupied. Vacations would be cheaper and easier for parents to schedule because they would be available several times per year, not just during peak seasons. And overcrowding could be eased by scheduling students on rotating on-off schedules throughout the year.
The educational value of traditional versus year-round or extended-year schools is perhaps the most hotly debated topic. Supporters of a calendar change contend that most teachers currently spend an inordinate amount of time at the beginning of each school year reviewing the previous year's material. Many of today's students fail to retain much of their learning over the long summer break. Shorter breaks would improve continuity and thus increase learning. Remediation would also be facilitated by more constant instruction. Instead of waiting for the traditional "summer school" to assist children who need extra instruction, those opportunities could be offered during each "intersession."
Advocates of extended-year education blame the outdated school calendar for the poor performance of
|Country||Days in standard school year|
|Netherlands, Scotland, Thailand||200|
|Finland, New Zealand, Nigeria||190|
|Spain, Sweden, United States||180|
American students on standardized tests administered worldwide. In fact, most children in the United States attend school fewer days per year than children in almost any industrialized country in the world. For example, the school year runs 243 days in Japan, up to 240 in Germany, 220 in South Korea, and 216 in Israel. By the time Japanese teens have completed 12th grade, they would have spent the equivalent of at least three more years in school than their U.S. counterparts. Standardized test results typically show Japanese scores far superior to American. For example, some tests show 98% of Japanese children score better than American children on math and science. The accompanying table provides the average humber of school days per year in selected countries.
Supporters of the current system state that poor scores by students in the United States are the result of inadequate curriculum rather than lack of class time. Some estimate that more than half of classroom time in the United States is devoted to nonacademic courses rather than core courses like English, math, and science. Strengthening the curriculum, holding teachers to more stringent standards, and requiring students to do more homework, some experts contend, will do more to increase test scores than extending the school calendar.
Opinion polls throughout the years show that, while year-round and extended-year schooling are still controversial, more Americans are supporting some type of change in the educational system. The Gallup polling organization has been asking questions about the subject since the late 1940s. In 1989, for the first time, more people supported increasing classroom time than opposed it. Some states are gradually adding small numbers of days to their calendars, and as of 1993, some year-round schools were operating in at least 32 states in more than 300 school districts and 1,500 schools.
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Tawasha, Mary Ann. "Breaking Away from the Agrarian School Calendar: Can 30 More Days Make a Difference?" Omni 17, no. 7, April 1995, ρ 20.
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