The school calendar for most schools across the nation is based on the old agrarian lifestyle. In the past, students needed the summer months off so they could help with planting and harvesting. Farming and the crop cycle are no longer primary in scheduling the school year.
There is a growing trend for a year-round school calendar. The other day I was listening to an NPR story about Hall Fletcher Elementary in Asheville, North Carolina, which has adopted the year-round model. After a five week summer vacation, students are back in school. About 80% of the students come from low-income families and do not really have engaging learning opportunities during the summer.
If students do not have enriching summer activities, they lose academic ground. The year-round model has the same amount of school as the traditional school calendar. There is a five week summer break, three week breaks in September and March, and a Christmas break. In the United States, about 3 or 4 percent of schools use the year-round model. The model postulates that academic retention increases with shorter breaks.
Academics and parents who dislike the year-round school calendar point out that there are added costs to a year-round schedule. Student, teacher, and family schedules can be disrupted. Some parents at Hall Fletcher Elementary removed their kids and switched schools to avoid the year-round calendar.
There is disagreement about which school calendar model is more enriching for students. This is a debate that needs additional study-based evidence. Tradition can be firmly entrenched, and sometimes change is difficult. The real question is what model is better suited for learning?
“Work is the greatest thing in the world, so we should always save some of it for tomorrow.” — Don Herold (humorist)