Pros and Cons of Year-Round School

Students get more instructional time but may struggle to stay focused

Students with hands raised in classroom.
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The debate over year-round schools has uncovered pros, cons and thought-provoking facts about such schooling. Proponents of year-round schools and longer school days say they will solve our nation's concerns about school performance and produce more globally competitive citizens. But opponents have also identified potential drawbacks.

Why Have Year-Round School?

Many advocates of year-round school or longer school days believe that more is better.

President Barack Obama is among them. "The challenges of the new century demand more time in the classroom." he stated.

Frederick M. Hess, director of Education Policy Studies for the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, notes that few countries offer more than seven consecutive weeks of vacation for students. This contrasts with the United States' average of 13 weeks. Hess suggests that following the agrarian calendar is an anachronistic way of running schools.

What Does the Research Say About Year-Round School?

Not all educators agree that more time is better and the research, including studies published in the  Economics of Education Review and Phi Delta Kappa, back them up.

In fact, the studies and research conducted by Elena Silva, a policy analyst at Education Sector, found that for most students, there is no correlation between the length of the school day or year and academic achievement.

What they did find, however, is that how time in the classroom is spent proves incredibly important. In other words, it's not how long kids are in the classroom, it's how engaged in learning they are while they are there.

The Pros of a Year-Round School or Longer School Day

Shorter summer breaks mean students are less likely to incur summer learning loss, which may decrease the number of students being served by intervention programs.

Remediation needs can be addressed during the school year as opposed to during summer programs, possibly decreasing retention rates and the need to include summer school in local budgets.

Vacation time can be more evenly distributed throughout the year, making it easier to schedule family vacations and giving students opportunity to revitalize themselves more frequently. This may cut down on the need to re-teach skills after long vacations, allowing teachers to use classroom time more efficiently.

Families who struggle to find childcare or pay childcare expenses will benefit from such programs, as will children who are in sub-par childcare during summer vacation or after school.

With year-round schools, the U.S. school system would be more like that of other countries, providing students with the ability to have a more global educational experience. Also, multi-tracking systems, those in which groups of students are on different school schedules, may allow for more school consolidation. And students with lower test scores increase academic skills with more instructional time.

The Cons of a Year-Round School or Longer School Day

School maintenance costs, including day-to-day upkeep and utilities, can increase up to 10 percent if schools are open for longer. In addition, students who have difficulty with attention, due to a disability or because small children are not developmentally ready to attend for longer periods of time, are unlikely to get more out of a longer school day. This, too, may increase the amount of behavioral issues in the classroom.

Teens who need to work to help support themselves or make money for college may have difficulty holding or finding a job. And school budgets and staffing issues simply may not allow for extended school programs. Many schools already struggle to pay teachers a competitive wage, making it hard to keep high quality teachers. The cost of teaching as a full-time endeavor may not be feasible either locally or federally.

Multi-tracking programs mean that parents could possibly have students on different schedules. After-school activities, such as sports or the arts, may suffer or get lost in the shuffle (or budget) if school days are longer.

Students in year-round school may miss out on opportunities to spend time with children of other ages and learn about nature, as typical summer camp experiences may no longer be a part of the childhood experience.

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