Year Round Schools and the Effect They Have on Summer Learning Loss The calendar used by most school systems in our country is based on the agrarian society that we once were. Many have begun thinking that this system has become too old fashioned for our changing lifestyles. Thus the concept of year-round schools has come to be. The idea behind these schools is not new to the United States. Year-round schools have were used as early as the 19th century continuing on to today (Roger, 1993).
The change in thinking has come from many reasons that range from the possible increase in retention rates to lessening overcrowding in our schools. Many argue that redoing the school year in this manner would cut back on summer learning loss as well (Holland, 2009). This literature review will focus on: What exactly is a year round school? What are the possible positives and negatives associated with these schools? And more importantly, what effect do year round schools have on summer learning loss in elementary age students? Definition
The majority schools in America have run on a ten month system for as long as public education has been available to all, when children were needed during the three months of summer to work in the fields (Kelly). According to Cuban (2008), author of “The Perennial Reform: Fixing School Time,” the author has noted, “by the 1960s, however, policy makers and parents became concerned about students losing ground academically during the vacation months—which became known as “summer loss”—which gained support for year round schooling” (p. 241).
These year round schools operate on the same 180 day schedule as traditional schools; but they have shorter breaks that are dispersed more evenly throughout the year, without a big three month break in the summer (Yeager, 2011). According to the California Department of Education there are three typical types of instruction/vacation schedules; first there is the 60/20 calendar with sixty days of instruction time followed by twenty days of vacation time, the next is the 45/15 schedule forty-five days of instruction with fifteen days of vacation, and the third nstruction/vacation schedule is the Concept 6 which is eighty days of instruction followed by a forty day vacation (Yeager, 2011).
Many year-round schools also use a track system, which can either be a single track or have multiple tracks (Huebner, 2010). Dessoff (2011) noted that the single track system is the most popular format, with 90% of schools who have transitioned to year round education adopting a single track calendar (p. 36). Single track year round schools have no more days than traditional schools (Dessoff, 2011).
The days are simply spread out more so than the typical American school, where they attend school between the months of September to June, with periodic breaks throughout the year that are meant to help prevent learning loss (Dessoff, 2011). Dessoff (2011) has quoted Charles Ballinger, the Executive Director Emeritus of the National Association for Year-Round Education, in saying that these schools don’t cost any more than a traditional school (p. 36).
Then there are the multi-track schools, where students and teachers are divided into two or more groups that are on different instruction/vacation schedules (Huebner, 2010). Meaning that while certain tracks are in school at least one other group is on vacation (Dessoff, 2011). Multiple track schools, according to the California Department of Education, allow for more seating capacity in schools, as long as one track is always on vacation (Yeager, 2011). This in turn saves the school system money, by not having to build more schools to accommodate these students (Dessoff, 2011).
History Free public education began in the United States in the middle of the 1800s. At that time, far more than half the population lived in rural areas and farming was a major occupation for fifty to sixty percent of the nation (Kennedy, Cohen, & Bailey, 2010). Then there was the first real attempt in Bluffton, Indiana in 1904 (Hunt, 2002). Here William Wirt, the superintendent of the time, divided the year between the four seasons, as a way to ease overcrowding and improve the quality of education (Sexton, 2003).
Besides the one instance in Indiana there were several other programs that followed, such as 48-week sessions in Chicago, Boston, Washington D. C. , Cleveland, and Detroit in the 19th century (Hunt, 2002). According to Hunt (2002) Newark, New Jersey in 1912 developed a program that “had the greatest impact in educational circles” (p. 214). The program in Newark was initially created in 1912 during the Depression for those students of foreign descent and those with a poor home life, “to keep them out of mischief during the summer” (Hunt, 2002, p. 214).
This program sought to extend the school year from a ten month system to a continuous twelve month one (Scherer, 1987). Where Dr. Addison Poland believed, “learning in some form went on all of the time, it was better for children to be exposed to healthy school experiences than harmful non-school ones,” during the summer months where children tended to stay (Scherer, 1987). According to Lapidos (2008) other factors also played a major role. Lapidos stated, “Attendance was below 50% in the summer months and physicians feared students would spread diseases common during the heat of the summer” (p. ).
Buildings being poorly ventilated, student and teacher burnout and the wealthy vacationing during the summer were other traditional reasons for schools to be closed during the summer months (Lapidos). However, it wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s that the traditional school year started to be described as “obsolete,” with the occasional, “these days children don’t need to bale hay anymore” (Hunt, 2002, p. 215). The revival in year round thinking mainly came from the need to respond to the post war “Baby Boom” population increase which necessitated the construction of new schools (Bussard, 1998).
Needing new schools prompted the Valley View school district in the suburbs of Chicago to switch to a year round calendar in the 1970s (Bussard, 1998). By becoming the first in its county to go year round, the Valley school district grew from 89 students to almost 5,000, and was expected to grow to 7,000 by the 70s (Bussard, 1998). The changeover to year round schools in Illinois renewed interest in this type of schooling. Over the years, the United States gradually became an urban country. The 1920 census showed for the first time in American history that over fifty percent of the population lived in cities (Kennedy, Cohen, & Bailey, 2010).
The dawn of the twentieth century also ushered in new technologies that changed farming. Tractors began to replace draw animals and threshers and reapers made the previous work of many people able to be accomplished by only a few. These advancements continued to fuel the trend of families moving to cities and suburbs in search of work they could no longer find on rural farms. Because farming continued to make technological leaps that reduced the necessity of farmhands, fewer people needed to stay on farms throughout the nineteen hundreds.
By the year 2000, fewer than three percent of the American population listed agriculture or farming as their main occupation (Kennedy, Cohen, & Bailey, 2010). Although there has been a major population shift in the United States and a great decline in the number of people employed as farmers, the school calendar has not changed in most public school districts. Most schools end within a week or two of Memorial Day in May and do not resume until the week or two around Labor Day in September. Many aspects of education, including best practice and methodology, have changed since the introduction of free public education.
The basic study of reading, writing, and arithmetic has been altered and enhanced several times throughout the twentieth century. Whether it was because of the nuclear and space race with the Soviet Union in the 1940s and 1950s, racial desegregation, integration, and forced busing of the 1960s and 1970s, the new computer technology of the 1980s or the explosion of the internet in the 1990s and the twenty-first century, subject matter may still be consistent but the delivery of the subject matter has changed drastically.
As with other institutions, every time a crisis or technological change has occurred, the dynamics of the institution changes, either to counteract the new difference or to strength the institution. The reason the school calendar was originally set up in the current format has changed significantly. Not only what is being taught but also what is required of the current students in our schools has changed markedly over time. The school calendar has remained the most unchanged area in education. Negative and Positive Sides of Year Round Schools Negatives
The negative side effects of year round are numerous, ranging from rising costs to scheduling issues for families with children on different tracks. Many people often focus the negatives of these schools that have either come about through research done on year round schools or in the actual implementation of this scheduling. More work Year-round schools have provided teachers, administrators, and other staff members with more work. Teachers in multi-track schools often complain about having to move from room to room because these multi-track schools want to eep classrooms at 100% capacity (Chaika, 2009).
Becky Hitt, a special education teacher at Imperial Beach Elementary in California, reported that, “my students and I needed to put all our belongings into wheeled cabinets that were then stored in a shed until we came back. Every time we came back from our break, we needed to set up again” (Chaika, 2009). In most cases onsite storage of teacher’s belongings/materials is a problem, because of the limited space in the actual school building where all teachers are required to pack up and store their things (Yeager, 2011).
Maintenance issues also arise within these schools. According to Hitt, in Chaika’s article (2009), maintence workers work “when it fits their schedule, whether or not it disrupts the classroom. ” She reported to Chaika that one day when walking into her classroom, she found her carpets had been cleaned but left wet, and because of the moisture the things on her bullentin boards were curled. Maintenance workers in California are problematic to the school system because of the cost involved.
All maintance must be done at night and on weekends when workers must be paid overtime for their jobs (Yeager, 2011). Administrators have more work as well as teachers, that have to pack all of their belongings away at the end of each track, and maintenance workers that either have to do work at night or on weekends. Sexton noted that in school districts that use both the traditional and year-round calendars at the same time, then there are two different sets of needs that have to be met (Sexton, 2003). Administrators noted that there are different deadlines, deliveries, and due dates (Sexton, 2003).
Along with two different school openings and closings, which Sexton (2003) noted , “The preparation for both can often be mind-boggling, difficult, and confusing” (p. 27). Administrators can find it difficult to deal with teacher contracts when planning for year-round schedules, as well as planning for “optimal” building usage (Lynch, 2012). 2. Scheduling Scheduling often a times becomes a problem within these schools and with families. Many families are against these schools because the loss of summer vacations, and Dr.
Matthew Lynch has noted that families find it difficult to schedule vacations and family reunions (Lynch, 2012). Lynch noted that the trouble of scheduling such events could possibly be detrimental to a child’s development, when they lose quality time with their families (Lynch, 2012). These schools can also be disruptive to everyday family life when there are children in the family that attend different schools. If one child attends a traditional school while another attends a year round school, then there is a chance that the scheduling of holidays or vacations become problematic (Lynch, 2012).
Lynch said, “Families could end up in a situation where one child is on a lengthy vacation while another is required to attend school“ (Lynch, 2012). In some areas elementary schools are on the year-round plan, whereas the secondary schools remain on the traditional calendar, which causes problems when scheduling daycare when older children have to be in school and younger siblings are on break (Chaika, 2009). 3. Segregation of student body Some researchers have found that students and teachers in multi-track schools suffer from segregation.
According to Mitchell and Mitchell, authors of “Student Segregation and Achievement Tracking in Year-Round Schools”, multi-track schools allow for buildings to accommodate more students within the same building space, and because of this students’ schoolmates change every month (Mitchell, 2005). Mitchell noted that since their schoolmates change from month to month children often see the other students, who are on the same track as themselves, as their primary schoolmates (Mitchell, 2005).
Because they are kept on the same track with the same students they are also kept separate from the other students on different tracks limiting their social interactions with a wider range of people their own age. 4. Cost Many school districts will not even consider year round schools because of the potential cost factors associated with year round schools. Added costs such additional air-conditioning in the summer months, transportation, school operation costs, changes to teachers salaries, and “revamping” the curriculum to meet the instructional needs during intersession’s can affect cost as well (Sexton, 2003).
Hunt (2002) quoted William Wise, from the research department of the state of Delaware, in saying, “You may postpone building, buy time, and maybe gain a little politically. But we need about $220,000 just to go ahead with a pilot program, and every district that ever tried extended school year for economy has dropped it” (p. 227). The cost savings are hard to tell because according to Edward Murphy, a Superintendent of New York, it takes about six or seven years of operation before any savings are noted (Hunt, 2002).
Murphy claimed that in today’s economy you “can’t expect the community to pay more without some immediate return” (Hunt, 2002, p. 227). Without knowing if year-round schools will save or cost the school district money, communities would rather stick with what they are familiar with, and what they know they will have to pay. The cost to the schools is not the only factor when considering year-round schools. When deciding to from a traditional calendar to a year-round one, it was necessary to factor in businesses as well. Students who Positives
Although there are many negatives associated with year-round schools, there just about as many positives to go with them. The positive aspects can range from being able to accommodate more students at one site, to keeping chidren out of trouble during the summer. The positive aspects of year-round schools are why some of the longest running ones were so successful. 1. intersessions I will briefly touch on intersessions here as they will be further reviewed later on. An intersession is the time when students go on break, whether it be fifteen days or twenty.
According to St. Gerard intersessions are one the advantages of year-round schools because they provide time for redmediation periodically throughout the year instead of waiting until the summer break (St. Gerard, 2007). During these intersessions if a student has fallen behind their parents can choose for them to attend one of the intersessions the extra help that they may need (St. Gerard, 2007). Sexton noted that the remediation is immediate, rather than students having to wait nine or ten months before their needs are met (St. Gerard, 2007).
Intersesssions also help with teacher and student burnout. According to Chris Pultz, quoted in Chaika’s article (2009), “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 at a time….. We spend a day maybe two, reviewing when we come back to school after a three week break. Then it’s off to the races” (Chaika, 2009). 2. Student Behavior Year-round schools not only affect the calendar but can a positive affect on student behavior.
By having periodic breaks from school both students and teachers had time to refresh themselves mentally, and as a result students come back to school ready to learn (Lowe, 2002). Lowe (2002) noted one teacher’s response to these breaks, “I feel that the breaks in the academy calendar allow the children to get some relaxation, some stress out of their own system so when they come back they are ready to learn” (p. 2). Lowe reported that many teachers felt that these breaks changed students because they were not out of school without structure for long periods of time, like summer (Lowe, 2002). . overcrowding Year-round schools are said to relieve overcrowding by using the multi-track system. Schools can accommodate more students because there is always a fraction students on break (St. Gerard, 2007). Multiple track schools, according to the California Department of Education, allow for more seating capacity in schools, as long as one track is always on vacation (Yeager, 2011). This in turn saves the school system money, by not having to build more schools to accommodate these students (Dessoff, 2011). Summer Learning Loss
One of the most important reasons for switching to a year-round schedule is to eliminate the loss of learning over the long summer breaks that happen in traditional schools (Anderson, 2010). The research available into summer learning loss confirms that children can forget between one to three months of the previous school years teaching, and because of this it is necessary to spend several weeks at the beginning of the new year reviewing (Kerry, 1998). The most prominent losses are in reading and math skills (Dessoff, 2011).
Research has shown that summer learning loss is a real problem especially those students of low socioeconomic status (Huebner, 2010). Huebner reported that these low income students made similar achievement gains to those students middle class and above during the school year, it was however over the summer that the achievement gap widened (Huebner, 2010). Dessoff has noted that Frederick M. Hess , of the American Enterprise Institute, claimed that children of middle or higher income read, go to summer camp, and take vacations with their families over the long summer reak (Dessoff, 2011). Whereas students from lower socioeconomic groups don’t have the same access to summer programs as those other children do (Dessoff, 2011). As mentioned before, intersessions provide immediate remediation for students that are falling behind. Dessoff (2011) quoted Hess in saying, “If you don’t use the time well, but simply take boring, ineffectual schools and run them longer, it’s unclear to me why this would be good for anybody” (p. 36-37).
Meaning that by just extending the time in school, spreading it out more than the typical school year, without providing chances for remediation means that it doesn’t help students. With intersessions in place students are provided with the extra help they need. According to Judith Jackson, a principal of Franconia Elementary in Fairfax Virginia, “Children have the advantage of not losing information over the long summer”, with going to school all year children have the opportunity to retain the information that they learn (St.
Gerard, 2007). It has been proven that low socioeconomic students in year round schools have scored six percent higher than those in the same home status that attend traditional schools (Anderson, 2010). Winters had been collecting studies that had been done on learning in schools that had made the switch from traditional to year-round schools (Kerry, 1998). Across nineteen of these studies Winters identified fortyone areas of performance in schools, such as math scores and reading progress (Kerry, 1998).
There was an 88% accurate finding that thirtysix of these areas were shown to have improved because of being a year-round schools (Kerry, 1998). Conclusion The need to have the summer free of school to help out on the farm is far behind us, as we have moved into the age of technology. The need to change our schools rises out of the changes in time, children “these days children don’t need to bale hay anymore” (Hunt, 2002, p. 215). According to Hunt the first attempt at year-round schooling occurred in Bluffton, Indiana in 1904(Hunt, 2002).
Year-round schools have had a long history in the U. S. with little support from communities despite research findings that these schools are beneficial when they ease overcrowding, reduce summer learning loss, and have positive effects on student behavior. These were but a few of the positves associated with year-round schools, there are numerous more. Although there are many positives there are probably just as many negatives, like the cost of maintaining these schools, adding to much work for teachers and administrators, segregating students, and scheduling issues.
However many negatives people throw out at you I see the benefits that make these schools beneficial. When there is any chance to increase retention rates and help students in any way, like getting them help when needed during intersessions. I believe that year -round schools are one way to help students succeed, mainly because of the use of intersessions where students receive help or take time to relieve themselves from the stresses of schools.
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