Why Schools Are Considering Year Round Classes

As summer is winding down, ponder the possibility that some schools are considering no summer breaks at all.

The idea of year-round schooling, meaning no break is longer than eight weeks, has been tossed around for years, and an article in the District Administration just revisited the debate.

Proponents of year-round schooling argue that students don’t do anything over the summer. They don’t read, they don’t look at math problems or history facts. They do nothing and essentially forget all the information they learned the previous year.

They argue that the last month or so of school is a waste because students cannot focus on anything but summer, and that the first month is worthless because students have to get back in the learning mindset.

Proponents say students lose about two months of math skills achievement over the summer. It’s worse for low-income students because they don’t have access or the resources for summer learning programs. They lose more than two months in reading achievement. But, middle-class students make slight reading gains, according to the National Summer Learning Association. 

Others have even tied obesity to summers off, claiming students eat a lot of junk food over the summer, instead of healthier school lunches.

Opponents argue that it can increase education costs as more faculty and administrators will be needed. Also, some schools will have to install air conditioning units for summer temperatures. Other schools may even need to build new facilities.

In 2006-2007, more than 2 million students were in year-round programs, representing 3,000 schools and 46 states. Since then, the number has remained fairly steady, but the idea is gaining steam again with education reform debate.

President Barack Obama has called for longer school years to help American students compete with foreign students and regain some ground. In other countries, some students have 25-30 percent longer school years than American students.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is also a big proponent of year-round and extended schooling. He was the CEO of Chicago Public Schools from 2001-2008 when it adopted year-round schooling. Some believe the Obama/Duncan combination has enough motivation and desire to change the traditional 9-month, summers-off calendar.

There are three separate systems for year round education. The single track system is the most popular and accounts for 90 percent of all year-round programs. The single track has shorter breaks scattered periodically throughout the school year instead of one long summer break.

But cost is a major issue with this system. Many schools will need air conditioning for this program. However, some argue that the additional costs of running air conditioning are offset by reduced heating costs in the winter when students are on a short vacation. They argue there is no additional cost. It still has the typical 180-day school calendar.

The second system is the multitrack, which divides the student body into groups. One group will be on vacation while the other is in school. This can save school districts money by not building more schools while still increasing enrollment. Like the single track, the multitrack still has the 180-day calendar.

The third system is the extended year. It adds 15-20 days onto the calendar. Obama and Duncan are heavily endorsing this system, but it is the most costly to implement because schools will have more costs with staying open longer and hiring more staff members.